Nagpur: Even as India continue to falter in Test cricket, captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni said this phase was a forgone conclusion after the retirement of legends like Rahul Dravid and V V S Laxman.
"Everybody was talking about this phase in Indian cricket when the big players would move on and the pressure will come on the youngsters and we may go through a rough patch. I think everybody expected this kind of a patch.
"Of course, we have struggled in the last two Tests. If you ask big questions depending on two Test matches...it (a situation) may come in the future too where we may lose two Test matches and people will say, okay all these youngsters should go out and someone else should come in," Dhoni said on the eve of the fourth and final Test here.
India, down 1-2 in the series that was billed initially as the revenge rubber for the 4-0 whitewash suffered in England last year, have to win the final game here to square the series. A draw would fetch the visitors their first series win in this country after 28 years.
Dhoni's future not only as the captain of the team but also as a player is at stake, but he did not appear to be too bothered.
"When people appreciate me a lot, I don't feel as if I am in seventh heaven. And it's the same when people criticise me. We (Indians) have extreme opinions.
"We praise and then start pulling the same individuals down. I would say it's very important to be in the middle path because that's how you will enjoy the sport," he insisted.
Asked if there was any message from the ex-cricketers like Dravid and Mohinder Amarnath who have been stringent on the team's performance, Dhoni said, "As ex-cricketers we respect their opinions but we have our own problems to solve."
Dhoni, whose head seems to be on the chopping block after a series of poor results, insisted that in India every Tom, Dick and Harry had an opinion about the game.
“If you are part of the Indian cricket set up everything is under the microscope and everybody has an opinion. You can ask plenty of questions on why that guy was not picked and why this guy was not given the new ball. It’s a team sport. It’s getting very critical,” he lamented.
The wicketkeeper-batsman insisted that despite two back-to-back defeats, the spirit of the team was high.
“Spirit in the team is really good. When you go through a bad patch you fail to enjoy. Dressing room atmosphere is great,” said Dhoni, who has flopped both with the bat and behind the wicket.
The skipper said the true character of a team can be judged only during a tough situation.
“As a captain and an individual such a situation does not happen often. It was a similar situation against South Africa too (in 2010) when we played at home and were down in the series and the last game was at Kanpur (and won the match to draw the rubber).
“But such situations are very few. Won’t say it’s a very good situation to be in, but the true character of a person as well as the team comes out in tough situations. In a way it’s good we are in a situation like this. We have nowhere to go and have to do well in this game,” he remarked.
Dhoni didn’t reveal whether the team would go in with three spinners as it had done in Mumbai, saying all pros and cons have to be weighed before taking a decision.
“The wicket looks good and hard. The combination of the team…you have to wait and watch. Can play the third spinner if you can weigh how important roles the fast bowlers and spinners can have on this wicket.
“There will be some reverse swing (depends on) whether we are going with that or with the fact that as the game progresses the additional spinner can be very effective in the second innings. We have to take into consideration all these and then decide on the playing combination.”
Asked why Virender Sehwag does not stand in the slips to the fast bowlers, Dhoni explained: “He got hit in the last first class game (Delhi-UP Ranji Trophy before the start of the India-England Test series) he played, got a cut in his hand.
“That’s the reason he does not stand in slips for fast bowlers. But it does not affect him standing in the slips for the spinners.”
Dhoni praised Gautam Gambhir for the way he had batted in Mumbai (second innings) and Kolkata.
“The best thing about Gautam is his aggressive character. He has batted very well in the last two games. Being aggressive is not only about stepping out and hitting the ball but also about positively defending.”
On the environment in the dressing room following the sacking of three seniors — Zaheer Khan, Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh — after India’s loss in the third Test at Kolkata, Dhoni said there was still enough experience.
“Sachin has played close to 200 Tests, Virubhai has played over 100 Tests and Ishant Sharma has also played a lot of games. There are enough people to guide the younger lot.
Ultimately it’s not the number of games you have played, but about what kind of form the team is in, and what’s needed from the individuals.”
He also said he did not believe in spoon feeding the erring bowlers.
“It’s important not to spoon feed players. Everyone from captain to senior player to coach is there to help the bowlers. Ultimately it’s up to the bowlers to execute the plans. During breaks there is the chance to talk to them but it sends a kind of panic,” Dhoni insisted.