'Some were playing to the gallery'
India's captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni blasted his batsmen for "playing to the gallery rather than for the country" after the home team slumped to a three-wicket defeat at the hands of South Africa, in a thrilling World Cup Group B encounter in Nagpur on Saturday.
India suffered a stunning batting collapse, losing nine wickets for only 29 runs, and crashed to 296 all out in 48.4 overs after being 267 for one in the 40th over.
"When you try to hit those big shots, you tend to forget that you are playing for the country and not for the crowd. In the process of trying to get those 20 extra runs, you end up scoring 40 runs less," said Dhoni at the post-match press conference.
"Some were playing to the gallery rather than for the country," he said curtly, when asked about the assessment of the team's performance.
"There are times you need to curb your instincts of trying to hit every ball out of sight. If you play normally and play for 50 overs, you end up getting 325-330. I tried to shuffle the batting order. It didn't work today," he added.
Image: Virender Sehwag is clean bowled by Faf de Plessis
Photographs: Getty Images
'Ashish has been our most consistent bowler at the death'
Dhoni termed the loss of Sachin Tendulkar, who hit a blistering 111, and Gautam Gambhir's (69) wickets during batting Powerplays as the turning point of the match.
He also defended Yusuf Pathan's promotion up the order at number four though he scored a two-ball duck.
"Well, that's how Yusuf plays. Either he would get out quickly or he will play a big innings. He is that sort of a player. If he can survive for two to three overs he can really play long," Dhoni said.
About the frustration of watching from the other end as his teammates made quick exits during India's batting, the skipper said, "I have come from a small state like Jharkhand where I have seen at times how one loses the initiative. This is something one has to live with."
Asked about the decision to give Ashish Nehra the last over, Dhoni said, "Ashish has been our most consistent bowler at the death. He has bowled a bulk of his overs during Powerplays. But the ploy didn't work today."
Even though India were all-out for 296, Dhoni said he felt it was a defendable total.
"I believe that this was a big ground which became a challenge for our fielders. They picked our fielders and ran their singles and twos well. Also, they were brilliant on the field. It also made the difference," said Dhoni.
Image: Ashihs Nehra
'Overall, I think the performance was good'
"Overall, I think the performance was good. If we could have fielded a bit better it definitely would have made the score look slightly bigger, but at the same time we're not a side which is known for fielding," he added.
While the decision to play three pacers was purely based on the Jamtha strip being one with good bounce and carry, the team for the West Indies match in Chennai on March 20 would be different, Dhoni said.
"Well, we thought that this track was conducive for pacers with good bounce and carry. When we select the team for Chennai, it will be a different selection altogether keeping the turning track in mind," he added.
Image: Zaheer Khan celebrates after pickign up the wicket of Graeme Smith
'We are relieved of chokers' tag'
Meanwhile, with his side winning the battle of nerves, South African captain Graeme Smith expressed happiness that for once they were able to shed the chokers' tag.
He praised his bowlers for ensuring a comeback in the final overs of the Indian innings by claiming nine wickets for just 29 runs and termed it as the "turning point" of the three-wicket victory.
"For once we are relieved of the chokers' tag. I am happy that our guys challenged the perception. It was a fantastic comeback on the fifth anniversary of our successful 434 run-chase (against Australia in 2006)," an elated Smith said.
"After being taken to the cleaners in the first 15 overs by Sachin (Tendulkar) and Viru (Virender Sehwag), we showed a lot of intensity and composure to come back strongly. It was good to get Sachin and (Gautam) Gambhir out during the Powerplay," he said.
Image: Robin Peterson reacts after winning the match against India
India will always be a difficult team to beat in the sub-continent
Smith refused to comment on whether the pressure got the better of the Indians.
"India will always be a difficult team to beat in the sub-continent with that kind of crowd support. It is there to be seen how they play in the knock-out stages of the tournament," he said.
Smith said he called for the first referral only to get his boys regroup as it was a nervy situation with 40,000 people behind the home team.
"The noise during the first 15 overs was really making things difficult for us. Basically, I took a referral to call my players and told them to remain calm as I felt that we can string in some quiet overs and make up for the 30-40 extra runs that we have given away. Ultimately, we achieved our target by miles," he said.
Image: Harbhajan Singh celebrates after picking up a wicket
'I can only find positives as far as Botha is concerned'
He said chasing 297 on the Jamtha track was not an easy job but his batsmen did well at the end.
"The guys batted exceptionally well. I always knew that the test won't be as tough as the one in Chennai. It was good that Robbie (Robin Peterson) did well for us."
South Africa's captain was all praise for comeback man Johan Botha, who had to sit out of earlier matches because the team management played leggie Imran Tahir.
"I can only find positives as far as Botha is concerned. It's not always easy to be out of side after being a regular member. He bowled exceptionally well when Indian batsmen were taking us to cleaners. Also, his batting in the end helped us."
Man of the match Dale Steyn was candid in his admission that he did not expect the side to be able to take nine wickets in nine overs for just 29 runs.
"At one stage, we were staring down the barrel. Once you look up to the scoreboard you don't feel good seeing the projected score being flashed. But we came back well," said Steyn, who took five for 50.
Image: Johan Botha