India coach Duncan Fletcher Sunday defended skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s decision not to go for a win in the the third Test against the West Indies, saying the pitch at the Windsor Park was difficult to bat on.
Dhoni baffled everybody by calling off the match with 15 overs left. India needed 86 runs from 90 balls to win the series 2-0.
Fletcher said with three wickets down, India couldn’t have risked losing the match.
“I said before. It (run-scoring on that pitch) was difficult. Once it got to four or five runs per over, we were struggling to score. We were struggling to score three runs per over. The side decided it was difficult to get those runs and thought what’s the point in going there and ending up maybe with just one side able to winning it,” said a grumpy Fletcher.
With questions flying thick and fast, Fletcher was fed up and said: “Huh … I have covered it. I have been repeating myself the whole time. I have told you, it was difficult to score runs. A man at 40 struggling to score three runs an over, how can you expect someone to go in there and knock five or six runs an over?”
Fletcher said the dismissal of Suresh Raina (8) prompted Dhoni to take the decision.
“Once Raina was sent in, he found it very difficult. He had gone there as the left-hander and to take on the leg-spin bowler but straightaway it’s turning like that, they block off one side and it’s always difficult to chase four runs an over in a Test match. Once it’s so slow you can’t play your shots, and that’s a huge advantage for the bowling side … Unless there was some real bad bowling, it was difficult to score.”
Fletcher said that batsmen were struggling to score runs.
“Even if he (Raina) got out, did he score runs easily when he was there? And he was struggling to score those runs. If he had gone in there and hit couple of boundaries and then got out, we would have said let’s keep going because it’s easy to score runs. Even Rahul in the end with those 30 or 40 and Vijay said it wasn’t easy to score runs. They have been struggling to score three-and-a-half runs per over. It makes common sense to me.”
Fletcher, however, was happy with the young team’s performance in the series.
“Well, you don’t think we made a statement here? I think we made a statement. We came here with five top players missing – Sehwag, Gambhir, Tendulkar, Zaheer – we come here with a young side and we have won 1-0; I think that’s quite a statement to some degree,”Fletcher said.
“Look, we are not sitting back on it, because at the end of the day we would have liked to have won 4-1 in the ODIs and 2-0 in the Tests. And that could have happened in Barbados. We have to look at this one and say this was a tough one to win. Barbados, with another half an hour, if the bad light hadn’t come in, I think we could have won it. Cricket is a funny game but I think we could have won it. That’s making a statement for a team missing its top players.”
Fletcher said he was happy with the bowlers.
“This series has been very good. Some youngsters were given an opportunity and especially the bowlers. Ishant Sharma winning the Man of the Series has shown a lot of promise. Unfortunately for Munaf, pity for him, he had to sit out first two Tests and it was very hard to ask him to come here and a bloke like PK (Praveen Kumar) would have obviously found it very difficult with this very slow wicket and it didn’t really swing.”
“From a bowling point of view, they should have learnt a lot and hopefully they have. Only thing is, it would have been nice if some of the batsmen had got some runs but it was good at the end of the day that all the batsmen that were here got runs at some stage and that is very good for the England series,” he said.