Dhoni lauds India as turnaround kings as they beat arch-rivals Pakistan yet again
Win after shock opening defeat against New Zealand kickstarts World T20 campaign
Mahendra Singh Dhoni hailed India as cricket’s bounceback kings after they again followed up an early defeat in a major tournament with an emphatic win and kickstarted their bid for World Twenty20 glory.
After their shock defeat on Tuesday to New Zealand in their first match, the hosts cruised to a six-wicket victory over arch rivals Pakistan in Kolkata late Saturday.
The defeat against New Zealand had put a question mark over India’s status as red-hot favourites and triggered accusations of complacency.
But in a cauldron-like atmosphere of a packed Eden Gardens, Dhoni’s men held their nerve and reached the target of 119 with 13 balls remaining.
The bounceback from the humiliating 47-run reverse against the Kiwis came as no surprise to veteran skipper Dhoni who was captain when India won the inaugural World T20 in 2007 and the 2011 ODI World Cup after stuttering starts to their campaign.
India’s prospects looked grim in 2011 after their first two matches against a traditional powerhouse included a tie with England followed by defeat to South Africa.
India also got off to a slow start in 2007 when they tied with Pakistan before winning a bowl-out and then lost to New Zealand.
“If you see we have been in this position many times. We know how to turn it around,” Dhoni told reporters at Eden Gardens.
The man known as “Captain Cool” pointed out that India followed up their defeat in a 2014 Test series against England with victory in the ODIs and an otherwise poor recent tour of Australia ended with India beating their hosts 3-0 in the T20s.
“To have a very bad game or a very bad series and to come back strong, it’s the kind of character the boys have.
“And I feel it’s very important to back them and have confidence in them that they will bounce back and will come back strong.”
Dhoni hit the winning runs at the finale in Kolkata where he played second fiddle to batting maestro Virat Kohli.
Kohli appeared supremely calm during his unbeaten knock of 55, which was more than double the next highest score by a batsman on either side.
After India lost three early wickets, Kohli and Yuvraj Singh then put together a 61-run partnership before Yuvraj fell to Wahab Riaz, bringing Dhoni to the crease.
Indian newspapers hailed Kohli’s “masterclass”, with The Times of India saying he “appeared to be batting in a different zone”.
“No batsman in the recent past has looked more assuring than him, calmer and composed, or more classy and skillful,” said the daily.
The Indian Express said the 37-ball knock “was a special innings even by Kohli’s hugely lofty standards”.
India will now look to pick up the run-rate in their remaining group matches against Bangladesh and Australia, two teams who also lost their openers.
“I still feel there is still scope for improvement and in the coming two games that will be our priority,” said Dhoni.
Pakistan, who started the tournament with a bang by thrashing Bangladesh, failed to shrug off their world cup jinx against India.
Pakistan have lost all their 11 matches to India in six 50-over World Cup meetings and five T20 clashes, but senior batsman Shoaib Malik did not read much into it.
“We would have fared badly against many other teams as well in the world cup, but the India bit gets highlighted more,” said Malik.
Invited to bat on a moisture-laden pitch, Pakistan made 118 for five in a match reduced to 18 overs a side due to rain.
Apart from Ahmed Shehzad (25) and Malik (26), no other batsmen got going against an Indian attack which utilised the conditions to their advantage.
“It was a tough pitch to bat on but we could have put on a better target than this,” said Malik. “Our total wasn’t enough to defend against such a great batting line-up.”