CHENNAI: A captain faces lots of criticism when his team goes through a prolonged lean patch but India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni does not mind becoming a "punching bag" if it saves the other players from pressure.
India have been going through a bad phase since last year and the effectiveness of Dhoni's leadership has been questioned quite often in the recent times.
However, Dhoni says he is okay with all the criticism, thrown at him in this crisis hour for the side.
"I accept whatever comes to me. I feel good that I'm the punching bag because there's less pressure on the team. You need to have a few punching bags in the side. Sachin has been there for quite some time now, he takes away all the tension. I don't think everybody gets chance to be the punching bag, so I am happy that I can take a bit of tension for my team," Dhoni said after India lost first ODI to Pakistan.
Dhoni said things went wrong for India right from the start when it lost the toss under overcast conditions and credited Pakistan pacers Junaid Khan and Mohammad Irfan for exploiting the conditions.
"I think it was the toss to start of with. After that they bowled well. When the ball is seaming or swinging, if you pitch it in the right area it works. If you see their bowlers, they bowled really well.
"They bowled up which was good because generally on these kind of wickets there will be temptation to bowl short because there will be bounce and carry. But they made sure they bowled up and put the batsmen in trouble," Dhoni said.
Dhoni saved India from blushes with a great knock of 113 under pressure as the team was struggling at 29 for five. But Dhoni said he would prefer his top-order to perform than a getting an opportunity to score a hundred like this.
"It's not like I have got plenty of centuries to choose from. So all of them are very special for me. Going down the order, batting at six or seven, and if you get a 100... actually you don't want an opportunity like that because you want your top order to perform.
"But overall quite happy that I got a century. It looked very unlikely, at certain point of time. It was important that we kept going so that we reach a respectable score. So that was something in mind and not about how much runs I got."
Dhoni also backed his top-order batsmen, saying they got out to some really good deliveries.
"Well honestly if you see, there was plenty for the bowlers in the initial period. Their bowlers bowled in the right areas and they exploited the conditions. They invited the batsmen to drive, almost all of them (India batsmen) were bowled which means that the deliveries were good. You can't really question the talent of our top order," he insisted.
"It will be really unfair if we say those balls weren't good. Maybe you can say we didn't stand up to it but it's a good learning for everyone. You may face these conditions again then you will be in a better position to pace your innings," he added.
Dhoni said 227 was never enough to defend when they were short of one bowler and they had to rely on part-timers to bowl those 10 overs.
"We wanted to put on at least a respectable total and we had gotten two-three early wickets, we could have built pressure. Frankly wicket had improved and it had become easy to bat on, so 227 wasn't enough.
Dhoni also said that he was not a big fan of the new rules for ODIs since they favour fast bowlers and are harsh on spinners.
"Personally I did not like the rule changes. It's difficult for the spinners to bowl with five fielders inside especially when the wicket is flat. Not to forget, people were worried when the ODIs were introduced that spinners will have to bowl flat and they are not flighting the ball anymore.
"I don't know what they really expect with five fielders inside. They will just dart in. If you have variation like how Saeed Ajmal has, it will different but overall it's very difficult. These are more in favour of fast bowlers and teams who plays with three or four fast bowlers.
"We haven't got a bowling all-rounder for long time, we're just managing with part-timers and working around with them. But I don't think that will be really possible with new rules in place," he said.
Asked if young opener Ajinkya Rahane will be played in the series, Dhoni said it was difficult now but he will surely get his chance.
"When the senior player like Virender Sehwag comes into the side, when he is specially picked for the series, he needs to a go ahead. That's the main reason. Of course it is easy to say because he hasn't scored. But Jinks will get his chance, he will have wait for it. Right now there are two openers who are playing, consistently opened for us. Definitely he will get a chance," he said.
Dhoni also said they were still alive in the series and keen to win it and for that they have to work hard.