Kolkata: Mahendra Singh Dhoni might have flopped with the bat and failed to inspire his team Jharkhand against Hyderabad on Friday but coach Rajiv Kumar defended the former India captain, saying they would bounce back to qualify from Group D in the Vijay Hazare Trophy.
Jharkhand's fate hangs in balance in the Vijay Hazare Trophy after they suffered a 21-run loss against Hyderabad, despite a fine century by Sourabh Tiwary (102 off 104).
Chasing 204 to win, Dhoni took 20 balls to score his first boundary and his 47-ball struggle at the crease ended for 28 when he was cleaned up by left-arm spinner Mehdi Hasan (3/40) as Jharkhand were bundled out for 182 in 44.4 overs.
Blaming the Jadavpur University second campus wicket that stayed low, Jharkhand coach said: "He (Dhoni) could not have done much. There was little time to react. It was a good length ball that stayed low and skidded on to stumps. It was his bad luck."
Dhoni, however, contributed with his captaincy as Jharkhand managed to restrict Hyderabad to a modest 203/8, the coach pointed out.
"His leadership quality is an inspiration to all of us. With his smart thinking, he's able to restrict a team for 276/9 when they're eyeing a total of 300-plus (against Services in Kalyani on 28 February).
"Here we could restrict them for 200-odd. There's an overall improvement but wicket has been difficult, we have not been successful to adapt quickly.
"He has seen situations like no one else here. Nobody knows to finish a game better than him. His presence is a big boost for the side. In Kalyani we lost three but Jaggi and Saurabh finished the game. It's a big learning experience for all of us," Rajiv said.
Jointly on 16 points after four matches each, Karnataka and Hyderabad have an edge over Jharkhand (12) to make the quarters from group D as the Dhoni-led side will have to post a big win against Jammu and Kashmir in Kalyani on 6 March to keep their hopes alive.
Dhoni has given a pep talk after the loss and the coach hoped that they would bounce back to make the last-eight.
"He had a good chat with the team. He told us what are the areas of weakness we need to work as a team."
Centurion Saurabh lost his wicket at a time when his team needed 31 runs off 70 balls and the coach said the left-hander developed cramps and got out.
"It's not fair to say he threw his wicket. Had he been successful in chasing we would have said he played an extraordinary innings. But only he could feel how his body was feeling. He developed cramps. He wanted to close the game so there were a lot of things going in his mind.