Napier, Jan 19: India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni today said his team's failure to build partnerships after losing early wicket was the cause of the defeat against New Zealand in the first one-dayer and asked his batsmen to step-up with more consistent performances.
Chasing 293 for victory, India lost the first ODI of the five-match series here by 24 runs despite Virat Kohli (123) scoring a superb century.
"We lost three quick wickets of Virat, Ravindra Jadeja and mine, and that was the turning point of the match," said Dhoni at the post match press conference.
"That was when we needed a partnership and we need to learn out of this. It is important to get partnerships going. The number four and five batsmen haven't been consistent for us.
"Even if we don't get hundreds or fifties from them, those slots are crucial when the opposition scores 280-300 runs. After we lose early wickets, we need partnerships to rebuild and cannot play catch up, thus putting pressure on the lower middle order," he added.
Dhoni, however, said the fact that the team got close to the target showed that the batsmen have a lot of firepower.
"At the same time, we can say that not many batsmen scored runs but we were still able to get close to 290 runs. It means that we have got plenty of firepower. We just need to apply ourselves better and it will see us through," he said.
Four out of the top six batsmen - Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina and Dhoni himself - fell to short balls or bouncers, perhaps underlining a growing weakness in the Indian batting line-up.
But the wicketkeeper-batsman was quick to negate the theory.
"One of the options is, not to play the shot but our strength has been to play shots," he opined.
"At times we will get caught because it's a difficult shot to play. But we need to play it and master this shot because overseas you cannot allow the bowlers to dominate and cannot leave all of them.
"But we can always pick and choose when to play and when not to play this shot," Dhoni explained.