Relieved he might be after a consolation win against the seemingly unstoppable Australians, but Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni today rued the fact that the ODI side lacks a settled bowling line-up.
India won the fifth ODI by six wickets courtesy an unbeaten 104 from youngster Manish Pandey but the bowlers bled runs in the series, which the visitors lost 1-4. Dhoni though still found positives from the showing.
“I think we have been competitive in the series. The goal was to win matches. The first four games, I thought were close, but we didn’t close it down well. That’s important in the ODI format. Every over matters, especially in a high-scoring game. Giving those 15-20 run overs, it becomes slightly easier for the opposition,” Dhoni said in the post-match presentation.
“The top order has been together for a long time now. Where we have been hurt a little bit is the lower-order batting, where Manish did really well today, and also the fact that we have not had a settled bowling attack,” said Dhoni, who himself played an important 34-run cameo at the SCG with a last-over six that helped Pandey to finish off things with two balls to spare.
The Men in Blue will now have to shift focus towards the three-match Twenty20 series starting January 26 and Dhoni believes the team will have to lift its fielding to do well in the shortest format.
“We have to improve our fielding slightly. Grounds over here are quite big, and once you know the fielder is not that quick or doesn’t have a good fielder, you will put pressure on that fielder,” said the wicketkeeper-batsman.
Man of the Match Pandey took centerstage today with his 81-ball knock, which was laced with eight fours and a six and the top-order batsman was happy to bat at No.4 in place of injured Ajinkya Rahane.
“Batting No. 4 is one of the chances I got because Ajju was injured, and I wanted to capitalise, especially on these wickets, with 300 scored in every match. Always nice to have Indian people in the stadium, it’s a big boost to us,” said Pandey.
“Not really (frustrating to get out on 99), because we won the game tonight. The young Manish Pandey did really well, playing his fourth one-day international, getting that hundred and getting us off the mark. Over the course of the tournament, we played some really good cricket. Little moments we couldn’t capitalise on. We never thought we were 4-0 down.
“We wanted to come and win this game and go with a positive frame of mind into the T20 series. I’ve been batting really well in one-day cricket, it’s important that I keep scoring runs for the team,” he said.
Australian skipper Steven Smith was a happy man with a dominating scoreline to the team’s credit but did not forget to praise the good performance of the visitors.
“It’s been a pretty big run-scoring feast. Very proud of the way the players have played in this series. Tonight was a masterclass in chasing (from India). We missed a few opportunities in the field, but that happens in cricket, but we have to move on and improve,” he said.
Taking about the road ahead, he said, “(The T20s) are a different format, and there is a World Cup around the corner, so the boys are raring to go,” he said.