Sydney, Jan 6: A dejected Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni on Friday blamed his batsmen and bowlers in equal measure for the humiliating loss in the second Test against Australia but struggled to explain as to why plans made the dressing room were simply falling apart on the field.
After the 122-run loss in the opening match in Melbourne, India were thoroughly humbled by an innings and 68 runs in the Test on Friday. Adding to the humiliation was the fact that both the losses came within four days of play.
"If you see the last two series, our performance in England and now here, we didn't put enough runs on the board. It's important to take 20 wickets but you also need the cushion of extra runs," said a fazed Indian captain.
"We haven't put enough runs. Even in England, not often we scored 300 runs. It doesn't allow bowlers to experiment a bit when the rival batsmen are set. They never got the cushion of those runs."
India made only a paltry 191 runs in the first innings. Australia replied with 659 for 4 declared and the match was as good as over at that stage.
"On the Sydney track, over 300-350 in the first innings would have been a good score. Once you get out cheaply, the whole mindset of opposition changes."
"We not only were not able to take wickets but also couldn't stop them from scoring briskly. After scoring 200 runs, when you see batsmen scoring freely, you get confused whether to get them out or to stop them from scoring briskly.
"We need to come up with ways. If we can't break we should be able to contain so that we can wait for second new ball. But if they have already scored close to 300 runs, it becomes very difficult," he said.
The entire thrust of Dhoni's defence was that his bowlers were not executing the plans very well.
"If bowlers plan and execute those plans, it looks good. Once it starts to go wrong, it becomes very difficult.
"For instance in this game, there was just one gully fielder. That's when you invited batsmen to go for a cover drive. If he commits a mistake then the chance goes to slip. If it starts to reverse, you need to change the plan, look to have fielders on the leg side and bowl as straight as possible.
"We have tried to attack a lot with Zaheer because he is our main wicket-taking bowler. So I don't want him to contain any batsman as such. So it's about execution. With exposure, our bowlers must have learnt from the last two games.
"You need to bowl consistently a good line and length. You need to bowl to your field if the opposition have to score, they have to score through a particular field. You can't allow them to score on either side of the wicket."
Dhoni cited the example of the Australian bowlers who planned and executed brilliantly.
"Australian bowlers have looked to bowl on one side. Once a batsman gets set, they get it away from drive and play on batsman's patience. Then it depends on who commits a mistake early."
However, Dhoni did see a silver lining among dark clouds of his team's performance.
"In the second innings, we saw batsmen score runs even though it wasn't a help in saving the Test. At least everybody has scored a 50. We just need to convert those into big totals," he said.
"As to why they are not able to convert, well it's difficult to say. We will have to assess if the batsmen are getting out to good deliveries or are they making mistakes.
"We have done well in patches. We have got opposition out. In the last innings, we have seen we can score 400 runs. Now we need to do it together. Rather than doing it in departments, we need to do it as a team," he added.
The Indian skipper didn't feel that his ageing middle order was the cause for his team's batting failure.
"With age, there also comes experience. They might now be feeling puffed to perform better. Hopefully, it will get better and we will be able to score more runs."
Reacting to suggestions that he fell back on defence too early into the match, Dhoni said it was not the case.
"You can't have four or five slips all the time. You need to have strategies. It's a balance between getting wickets and stopping them from scoring briskly. In fact, I felt I kept the slip cordon a little bit longer in this Test."
Down 0-2 in the series but Dhoni said the team is not short of motivation.
"It's not about landing 10-15 days earlier and feel we can perform better. It's important to adjust to particular conditions...every game is different. Accordingly, you have to adjust.
"Indeed, I feel the pitches have not been very fast so far. At the MCG, the wicket had steep bounce but it wasn't quick. Even this wicket wasn't quick. Motivation is not a worry. With 2-0 down, we can't win the series but we can look to draw it."
New coach Duncan Fletcher has failed abjectly in inspiring the team to do better in overseas conditions. But Dhoni didn't want the blame to be laid on the door of an individual alone.
"It's wrong to blame everything on an individual. It's not that a coach has changed and so performance has dipped. Once you go in to bat, then there is a contest only between two individuals. It's important the team to perform and hunt in packs," he said.
The Indian captain didn't feel that he is showing up as a poor captain and that his batting is not upto the scratch.
"In sports, you are not destined to win. Difficult times can help you improve as an individual and as a skipper. This will also help team get strong. If you don't look good as a captain, it's also about how we are executing our plans. If we do so, we will have better results in the future.
"As for batting, I wasn't happy in the first innings of the first Test. In the second innings, I got set to a certain extent. But I was short of batsmen and I like to go down with the ship rather than remain not out. I look to play shots, at times it pays off and at times it doesn't.
"Same it was here in the first innings. In the second, I don't know how I got out. I thought it was a full toss and then it looked a bump ball--only it wasn't so."
Looking at the future, Dhoni felt spending extra hours in the nets isn't going to provide the solution.
"They have got a fair amount of exposure to Australian bowling. Now you need to switch off from the game. You don't want to overdo it. There may be few individuals who would like to spend more time on the nets. I personally feel if you switch off, it distresses you and you come back in a positive state of mind.
"I feel rather than spend more time on the field, you need to spend time off the field in recreational activity and get some time off cricket."