Perth: While lashing out at the Australian media for the reports of rift in the Indian cricket team, skipper MS Dhoni praised his players for standing united.
"Australians must be dreaming about it after a few beers. I have never seen the Indian team fight. And this is one thing we are really proud of. Our real strength is that we love each other and enjoy each other's successes. I am really proud of our dressing room atmosphere," he said.
Despite being 0-2 down in the series, Dhoni looked confident of making a comeback in the third Test that starts in Perth on Friday.
Dhoni said the team's preparations are good. "India's preparations are good. Hopefully it will reflect on the field. We are ready for the Test match," he said.
When asked about if the Indian team lacked the winning spirit, Dhoni said: "It's not true. It hurts when you lose."
He also hit back at Michael Slater's statement that the Indian team was not hurt enough. "You don't want to sit on the ground and cry for four hours to show that we are hurt. We are grown up boys who want to fight and improve," he said.
"We understand it's a sport and we may lose some matches but till you are competing and giving your best, it's fine," he said.
Dhoni also hit back at former cricketers criticising his captaincy in the ongoing Test series against Australia, saying that he was not bothered by them as he would get brickbats even after taking right decisions.
Dhoni admitted that he was not right all the time but the critics would comment otherwise even if he had taken a right decision.
"You have to take it in stride. It looks easier from the outside, it's easier to comment on decisions. More often than not, you see the result and then comment," he told reporters at the pre-match press conference.
"At times I get it wrong and at times I don't get it wrong but there are people who feel I've got it wrong," said Dhoni rather coyly to criticism about his captaincy from former cricketers.
Reacting on criticism that the team received for skipping practice session and go for karting, Dhoni said that the Indian side is one of the teams who have very long net sessions. "We are a side which practices a lot. Indeed, we are trying to reduce the hours we spend in practice. We usually spend close to four hours every day in sessions. We try to rest as much as possible and recreational activity help us do it," he said.
Dhoni also defended Virat Kohli and Ishant Sharma who were involved in unsavoury incidents with the fans and laid the blame on the aggressive behaviour of fans.
"When I have a chat with few players, you realize that somebody starts something and it's the retaliator who gets stuck and punished. Everybody (the fans) is fantastic in the morning but after tea, after a couple of barrels of beer down, it becomes difficult. If you see Aussie fans they are quite verbal and aggressive," said Dhoni.
"It's something you need to learn, how you interact with fans, how to convert them into someone who wants you to perform as individual, and many may not want the opposition team to do well," he said.
"We need to get smart, if we can avoid it is in the best interest. You have to be smart at what people are trying to do and how you are reacting to a particular situation. May be they are trying to push to perform well. These are few things you learn apart from playing in the field."
Dhoni said his side could make a comeback in the series at the WACA and that the Australian batting, especially the top order, has looked vulnerable.
"We will have to target top order again. If you do so, you are able to bowl to middle order with the new ball. As we have seen in Australia, it does not swing after the first 20 overs, so it's important you get early breakthroughs," he said.
"Every side has weakness. It depends on how quickly you adapt. Every batsman has weakness. If you keep good balls out and play out bad deliveries, it really helps simplify cricket. You need to know the areas where to bowl and be consistent.
"There is uncertainty in every batting line up. It depends on how consistently you are bowling and how you are forcing the batsmen to make mistakes. Patience is important. In Australia, after 20-25 overs, the batting becomes easy the ball comes well on the bat and margin of error becomes less," said Dhoni.
"We can make a comeback. Whether we have performed to our potential or not you would only know after the match. We have prepared well and hopefully it would reflect on the field," Dhoni said.
The Indian skipper said he will take a call on the bowling combination depending on how much grass is left on the pitch.
"We have to see how much grass is there, whether the spinner will get some assistance or not and accordingly, the bowling department will be structured.
"Heat will affect to some extent, especially the bowling department," he said.
India lost 0-4 in England and there's a real fear that the same might happen in the ongoing series, and Dhoni admitted that his side "did not compete the way we should have on the field".
"You lose a few matches, you lose in series but it's okay as long as you are competing. Then it's good. But in England we did not compete the way we should have on the field.
"That's the area you want to compete as an international side. You die you die (it does not matter if England was worse or the present tour is). It's not which is the better way to die.
"We want to get back in the series. In England, we were not really there. We did not perform with the kind of potential we had. We have learnt a lot from that series, we have also larnt a lot from this series. It's just we need to implement (those lessons). We are trying to do our best," he said.
Talking about the poor form of some of the batting heavyweights in the team, Dhoni said, "It's not the first time that some of our batsmen and bowlers are going through such a phase in their career.
"It has happened to almost all individuals, especially if it is a long career. So they know how to get out of it, at the same time they help youngsters get out of it," he said.
Dhoni also refused to buy the line that youngsters in the team were not valuing Test cricket to the extent they should.
"If you ask the youngsters, all of them want to play Test cricket. They just not only want to participate, they want to perform. That's why some of these youngsters take a lot of pressure when they don white uniforms.
"What you need to do is to relax and play the kind of cricket you can play. I think all the youngsters I've interacted they want to play Test cricket."
(With PTI inputs)