Australian captain Michael Clarke today conceded that it was Mahendra Singh Dhoni's double century that turned out to be a game-changer as they were completely outplayed by India in the first cricket Test here today.
"They outplayed us. Mahendra Singh Dhoni certainly led the charge and I thought Virat Kohli was outstanding as well with his hundred. But it certainly was Dhoni, who changed the game," a dejected Australian captain told mediapersons at the post-match conference.
Clarke admitted that Dhoni's innings had the most impact on the match, but did not forget to praise off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, who took 12 Aussie wickets to pave the way for India's victory.
"It (Dhoni's innings) certainly had an impact on the game. Dhoni contributed a lot to India's success in this Test match. But like I said, Kohli made a fantastic hundred. Ashwin got seven wickets in the first innings and five in the second. Those were three very good performances. We were completely outplayed," Clarke added.
Clarke's assessment about his team's defeat was that they did not attack enough in the weak areas of the Indians. "I think there are areas in both teams you need to focus on. There are weak areas in the Indian team we did not attack enough. If we had got 150 or 200 on the board (for them to chase), we might have been able to expose or at least see how they played on a deteriorating wicket. A lot of credit has to go to India."
He refused to commit whether Australia would go into the second Test with a second specialist spinner. "We've got the same options we had before this Test. We need to assess conditions once we get to Hyderabad. Australian spin took three wickets in first innings while fast bowlers took a lot more," said Clarke. "That does not mean to say we got it right by playing three fast bowlers and a medium-pace all-rounder. We need to look at conditions again and work out what we think is the best XI."
Clarke however didn't have any harsh words for the Chennai strip which deteriorated a lot on the fourth day. "I think the wicket played better than it looked, to be honest. Both first innings, the wicket was pretty good for batting. The second innings, it did deteriorate. It spun and bounced a lot more. The bounce was inconsistent."
"I like to see a result in Test cricket, and the fact that the game went five days says to me that it's a pretty good Test match wicket," Clarke, in fact had some good words for the Chepauk strip. At the same time, he admitted that Australia didn't bat well in the second innings.
"It's not just about selection. It's about how you perform. I don't think we bowled well enough in our first innings and we certainly didn't bat well enough in our second innings."
The Australian captain has been one of the better players of spin bowling but he feels that as a team they need to execute their skills in a much better fashion as they would have to face a lot of Indian tweakers.
"You're going to face both if you're playing against India. They've got two right-arm off-spinners along with Jadeja and Ojha. I think you have to find a way against the ball spinning in both directions. I think it's more personal preference. We have just got to find a way to execute our skills better, with bat and ball."
"For me, I don't think it matters too much. I got out to a ball spinning away in the first innings, and to one spinning back in in the second innings (laughs). I'd like it to go dead straight. That would be nice."
Will this batting performance warrant a change in the batting order, he gave a terse reply, "I don't know how moving up the order guarantees any more runs. No matter where you bat, the guys in the top seven need to make sure we're scoring the majority of the runs."
He was full of praise for debutant all-rounder Moises Henriques, who scored two half centuries in the match and also gave a hint that he might be used as a third seamer. "If we don't have a third fast bowler, Moises can certainly don that role. I think it's very exciting the way he's started. He's been a very talented player for a long time, and it's nice to see that potential come to the forefront in his first Test match."
The skipper gave a tongue-in-cheek reply when someone asked about bringing in a few more spinners. "Bring more spinners to India? Bring the whole country in soon! Warney's (Shane Warney) is in town. We'll see, if he s available!" he commented on a lighter vein.
"We have spinning options with Xavier Doherty and Glenn Maxwell. We'll assess what the pitch is like and then make that decision." Clarke defended the field that was set for off-spinner Nathan Lyon who was hammered for 215 runs.
"The plan was to try and take wickets. The most important thing is to have fielders in catching positions. But if everyone's in saving a single, it's much easier to hit boundaries. You want to take wickets, but you also want to give Nathan a little protection as well. That's why we had the fields we had."
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