Mahendra Singh Dhoni today showed nerves of steel while guiding India to a nail-biting six-wicket win over Australia in the third Test, but the India skipper said his team was under a “bit of pressure” despite chasing a small total for a series clinching victory.
“With one batsman less and with our lower order not scoring enough runs, yes we were under a bit of pressure,” Dhoni said at the post-match press conference.
After bowling out Australia for 223 in their second innings, India chased down the target of 133 with 15 balls remaining before close of play in a match.
India’s win gave the hosts a 3-0 lead in the four-match rubber, their best-ever result in a single series against Australia: “It got close in the end. If you see I don’t gamble… we had everything to lose, nothing to gain. We had one batsman less, from seven to 11 we have not scored enough runs. It’s important that batsmen who are set are there till the end. Vijay got out when he was playing well,” Dhoni said.
The hosts encountered some tense moments in their run chase before Dhoni smashed three fours off Mitchell Starc in a row to seal the match in India’s favour, much to the delight of the home crowd.
The skipper felt the track at the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) Stadium has so far been the best surface to bat on in the series.
India had come into this match after posting convincing wins in Chennai and Hyderabad: ”I felt that it was the best wicket to bat on over the last three Tests. It becomes slightly easier to bat if you play a few deliveries.”
Asked how tough wicket-taking was on this wicket, Dhoni said, “The first innings (on Day 1) was tough to bowl, for taking wickets. There was not enough pace and bounce in the wicket.”
“But that first session was crucial from our point of view. Though we could not take a wicket we kept things quiet tight. In the second session of the first day there was a slight bit of turn and we got a few wickets. The same thing happened with us too while batting (when Australia fought back with a few wickets after the huge 283-run opening partnership between Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay),” he added.
And as far as chasing a 4-0 whitewash was concerned, especially considering the fate India suffered in Australia last year, Dhoni said, “You have to see the stakes, whether you are buying tickets for USD 5 or USD 500. The previous series doesn’t really matter.”
Dhawan bludgeoned his way into the record books with an unbeaten 168-ball 185, the fastest-ever Test century by a debutant, in India’s first innings, which paved the way for the hosts’ six-wicket victory and a historic 3-0 series lead over the opponents from Down Under.
And Dhoni, as was expected, had words of praise for the 27-year-old left hander from Delhi: “I think it’s important to back yourself. Shikhar batted himself to play a few shots and once he got to the 50, he was determined to make a big one. His knock gave us the momentum we needed,” Dhoni said.
Dhawan reached the three-figure mark off mere 85 balls, surpassing the previous record held by the West Indian Dwayne Smith.
Asked about the move to introduce Bhuvneshwar Kumar – the seamer had rocked the Australian top-order with three early wickets yesterday evening — late into the first session, the captain said, “He is not someone who is very quick. He can swing the ball, so we waited for the new ball.” Dhoni further said that India lost the last series to England 1-2 because “we didn’t score enough runs”.
And as far the future of off-spinner Harbhajan Singh was concerned Dhoni explained, “We brought him into the squad as Australia have quite a few left-handers. But now with Matthew Wade going and Brad Haddin coming in, Pragyan (Ojha) was a good option. Though he has not played in the first two Tests, Pragyan has been bowling very well.”