Auckland: India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni feels that losing wickets of the second new ball including a poor umpiring decision, proved to be a decisive factor, as the visitors lost by 40 runs against New Zealand in the first cricket Test here on Sunday.
India lost Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma off the second new ball, on either side of the tea-break that became costly in the final outcome of the match. Rahane was adjudged leg-before of Trent Boult despite a big inside edge. (Scorecard | Match report | Day 4 highlights | Day 5 in pics)
"I am having mixed emotions about this Test match. Close to the 85th over, we lost a few wickets at that point and we had a tough decision (Rahane) at the same time which meant we were short of 30-35 runs and that was the crucial phase," Dhoni said at the post-match press conference.
Under Dhoni, India now have lost 10 out of their last 11 overseas Test matches but the skipper said that one close Test match like this serves as an experience for three to four normal Test matches. (Also read: Stats - New Zealand defeat India in a Test after 14 years)
"Tight games like these give you the experience of three-four Test matches. You learn about the need to break the target down session by session. Hopefully, there will be plenty of players in our dressing room who must have learned a lot out of it," the skipper said.
Dhoni lamented that throughout this tour, there have been occasions when the team has been in good positions but couldn't convert them into winning ones.
"We have been in good positions this series, in the ODIs also, but we have not been able to capitalise on them. Maybe we are still learning and in the second Test we will capitalise if we get into similar situations."
Asked about Virat Kohli's dismissal due to a poor stroke, Dhoni defended his deputy.
"We all know the importance of his (Kohli) wicket. It was not only his dismissal, because we also lost wickets after the 80th over as well.
"The second new ball moved for may be five or six overs. If we would have not given our wickets, we would have got those remaining 40 runs. Also, we had a bad umpiring decision at the same time. So there were quite a few things that did not go our way," Dhoni came to Kohli's defence.
Dhoni however complimented his bowlers for their stupendous show in the second innings.
"In the first innings, we didn't bowl well even though we were good in the first session. The second innings was one of the best bowling performances we have had in the last two-three years especially on a wicket where there was not much assistance.
"In the second innings, the bowlers really brought us back into the game, and gave us something where we could have said, Yes, this is a big target, but we can look to chase it down," Dhoni added.
The skipper admitted that India could have done better with both bat and ball in the first innings.
"In the first innings, both batting and bowling could have been better. We gave away quite a few loose deliveries to score in the first innings because of which we were at the receiving end. Once you get a couple of batsmen going, it was a wicket where you could have gone on to score big and you can see how Brendon McCullum scored.
Dhoni said that missed catches were a factor but didn't want to put the blame squarely on fielders.
"Yes, there were a few missed catches also, but those are part and parcel of the game. Anyone and everyone can drop catches. I won't really point to that but yes, that also contributed to some extent."
Shikhar Dhawan, who had been through a horrible run of form since the tour of South Africa, was praised by his captain for a well-made century.
"His (Dhawan) approach to the innings was very important. He is someone who should play his cricket in a free way as he loves to play his strokes. There will always be a few challenges in the sense opposition will have a few plans but you will have to get through it.
"In the second innings, he was very calm and composed, batted the way it was needed, scored patiently. That was the reason he got a big hundred, and hopefully, it will really boost up his confidence and help him keep going," said Dhoni.
Dhoni also justified the all-out attack strategy employed by him and Ravindra Jadeja which yielded 54 runs in less than six overs as the target came below 50 runs.
"It was important to counter-attack at that time as the momentum was with New Zealand. The wicket was largely flat but the ball was still new and our approach was that we won't let them get on top. The field was quite attacking and we said that if we play a few big shots, we will score a few runs quickly and Jadeja and I said let us take a bit of risk as we needed a lot of runs at the stage.
"And it paid off, we got some runs quickly. We had decided that if we get another 25-30 runs, we will change gears and settle down. But unfortunately he got out and our lower order has not contributed much for us. It is difficult for them to get runs, and it was 40 runs too many," skipper said on a disappointing note.
India now move on to Wellington for the final match of this tour, wherein they are yet to win their first game, having also lost the five-match ODIs series 4-0.
"We will take plenty of confidence out of this game. Our bowling in the second innings was really fantastic. When you have bowled that kind of a line and length so recently, the fast bowlers would have learned a lot out of it. It will be interesting to see what kind of wicket is provided in the next game.
"I personally like a greener wicket when we are playing outside the subcontinent as it assists our fast bowlers. They can get the opposition out which means it will be testing for our batsmen but I always prefer it that way. We will have to wait and watch," Dhoni signed off.