South Africa vs India 1st ODI: MS Dhoni Blames Bowlers After Woeful Start to Tour

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By Deepak Vikraman | December 6, 2013 3:03 PM EST

India skipper MS Dhoni could do little to stop AB De Villiers and South Africa romping to a big victory in the first one-day international. Reuters

India skipper MS Dhoni would have envisaged a difficult test in South Africa, no doubt, irrespective of the kind of form that the Men in Blue have shown over the past few months in their own backyard.

However, even the skipper would not have expected India to start the South Africa tour off as badly as the crushing 141-run defeat suffered at the Wanderers in Johannesburg, where the bowlers, first, and then the batsmen failed to find any kind of quality.

From ball one India were on the back foot as the pace bowlers, who it must be said just haven't had time to adjust to the conditions, kept hitting the wrong lengths and thus allowing the South Africa openers Hashim Amla and Quinton De Kock, who made a wonderful hundred, to give the home side a big start.

Once the huge start was established, a big score was always going to be a foregone conclusion, even if 358 for four was a little over the top. In reply, India were bowled out for 217 with only Dhoni standing tall with the bat.

"Overall it was a bad performance," Dhoni said. "It started with the bowlers initially. This was not really a 350-plus wicket. We were supposed to bowl it up, and the wicket would have done the rest. We didn't get the kind of start that was needed. At the same time we should have backed it up with some good batting, but we weren't able to do it."

While the likes of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohit Sharma struggled to trouble the Proteas batsman enough, the home side's pace battery was superlative, with Dale Steyn, in particular, showing just why he is widely considered the best fast bowler in the world.

Dhoni admitted South Africa's familiarity with the conditions at home did work in their favour, but it still was not enough of an excuse for such a woeful performance from the visitors. "They know the conditions better than us," the wicketkeeper/batsman said. "They know what lengths to bowl.

"That is one of the reasons why I want our bowlers to step up, so that you don't give away 300 runs. That puts pressure on the batsmen because they have to go after the bowling right from the first ball, which was not easy on this wicket against bowlers like Dale Steyn. If you see how he bowled to Rohit [Sharma], he didn't move away from the good areas. We will have to step up overall."

While South Africa looked on course for a total in or around 300, the score of 358 was posted mainly due to the pathetic death bowling as well, where apart from Mohammed Shami, the Indian bowlers just kept bowling length deliveries time and again, allowing the Proteas to take a massive 100 runs from the final six overs.

If you give the likes of AB De Villiers and JP Duminy even the slightest opportunity to get under a delivery, then it really is only going to end up in one place. Dhoni, however, refused to blame the death bowling for the loss, instead, again, focusing on the opening few overs, where they failed to get the crucial breakthroughs.

"Death bowling -- over the world bowlers are going for runs," Dhoni said. "With the extra fielder inside and the fast bowlers are not able to get reverse-swing. It is the new ball that is important. Conditions will help. Bowl in the right areas, let the batsmen play good shots. Don't give them a gift."

While acknowledging India might have put up a better performance had they been given a little more time to adapt to the drastically changed conditions, Dhoni had to admit that particular aspect was now, unfortunately, the reality of modern cricket.

"It is difficult [to play without warm-up games], but at the same time, when you know the schedule, you have to mentally prepare yourself," the skipper added. "If you ask some of the experienced players, they will say a lot of cricket is played mentally. We had two to two-and-a-half days, which gave us time to prepare ourselves mentally for the ODI.

"What can be done [about the scheduling]? You'd love to come here, practise for a few days, play a few games, but nowadays the international schedule doesn't really permit that. We play throughout the year.

"If we need to get in those extra days, you don't know where they will come from. We played West Indies, had two or three days off, and came here. You have to adapt to conditions. Let us not complain about what is not there.

"Of course it would be lovely to get a few practice games, but at the end of the day what is important is what is in your hand."

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