Shastri struggles to dodge blame for demoting Dhoni to No 7, says it was 'a team decision'
London: India head coach Ravi Shastri has claimed that sending M.S. Dhoni to bat at No. 7 in their 18-run World Cup semi-final loss to New Zealand was a team decision. In the first semi-final, which was played over two days due to rain in Manchester, India restricted the Black Caps to 239/8 in 50 overs. But chasing a modest 240 for a place in the final, India were blown away by the Kiwi bowlers led by Matt Henry (3/37) on the reserve day.
India lost four top order batsmen for just 24 runs inside 10 overs before Ravindra Jadeja (77) and Dhoni (50) shared a 116-run seventh wicket stand to raise hopes of an unlikely victory. However, it wasn't enough in the end as India fell short by 18 runs. But Dhoni was sent in to bat after Dinesh Karthik who came in at No. 5 followed by Hardik Pandya, raising quite a few eyebrows.
"It was a team decision. Everyone was in with it — and it was a simple decision, too. Last thing you wanted was Dhoni coming out to bat early and getting out — that would have killed the chase," Shastri was quoted as saying. "We needed his experience later. He is the greatest finisher of all time — and it would have been criminal to not make use of him in that way. The whole team was clear on it," Shastri reasoned.
Asked about India's long standing problem of finding a stable No. 4 batsman, Shastri admitted that has been a area of concern and in the long run, the team needs a solid batter there.
"In hindsight, yes, we did need a solid batsman out there in the middle order. But now, that's something for the future. That's a position that was always giving us problems, but we just couldn't nail it. (K.L.) Rahul was there but then Shikhar Dhawan got injured. Then Vijay Shankar was there, and he got injured. We just couldn't control it."
Shastri added that this Indian team is on the right path and with a couple of youngsters in the batting order, it would be more stronger."This is a tough team. A magnificent team. Look at how we bowled. The way the batsmen batted. A couple of youngsters might come in the middle and make this even more stronger. It's a team on the right path a" they know it.
It was in the semi-final that they stumbled and Shastri, like skipper Virat Kohli and vice-captain Rohit Sharma, said that 30 minutes of bad cricket cannot undermine the fact that India were good throughout the campaign.