The pitch was slow and shot-making difficult but India batting coach Sanjay Bangar said these factors cannot cover up for the fact that batsmen “let the team down” in the lost fourth one-dayer against the West Indies here.
Chasing a modest 190 for win, the Indian willow-wielders found the going tough on a two-paced Antigua pitch to lose the fourth ODI by 11 runs and allow the West Indies to stay alive in the five-match series.
India, however, lead the series 2-1 after the first ODI was abandoned due to rain.
“It (the pitch) kept getting slower and shot-making wasn’t really easy. Those have been the nature of wickets we have seen so far. But we didn’t really bat to our potential. It was a gettable score. I just felt the batsmen let the team down,” said Bangar.
“We encountered this situation even in the previous game when we lost a couple of wickets in the first 10 overs but we still managed to get 260 on a wicket which was very very damp. Suffice to say we have been playing on wickets which have been difficult.
“Credit to them (West Indies). They executed their plans really well but I just felt it was a very very gettable score,” he added.
Chasing the modest target, India lost three wickets, including that of Virat Kohli, inside the 50-run mark before Ajinkya Rahane (60 off 91) and Mahendra Singh Dhoni (54 off 114) steadied the ship with a crawling but crucial 54-run stand for the fourth wicket.
But India couldn’t finish off the chase as they witnessed another collapse towards the end with Kedar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja and Dhoni departing in quick succession.
“The plan was for somebody to bat deeper into the innings. That’s what Ajinkya did till he got out. Till that time we were on course but suddenly we lost couple of wickets. Those wickets in the middle overs actually pushed us back. The run rate just kept on creeping higher and higher,” Bangar said at the post-match press conference.
The batting coach rued the shot-selection of Indian batsmen and said the platform was ideal for the lower middle- order to prove its worth.
“That is the goal of the team. You need to put the players in those situations which they are going to encounter at that particular position. Kedar at No.6 or Hardik at No.7. You need to see how they handle the pressure and how they need to make sure the team finishes the crossing line. These are big experiences for them. When Hardik, Jaddu (Ravindra Jadeja) got out it was still run-a-ball. In these situations shot selection was really crucial and at times I just felt they erred in that,” Bangar said.
Included in the team after the first three ODIs, Jadeja failed to make any impact with both bat and bowl, but Bangar backed the Saurashtra all-rounder.
“He (Jadeja) has already done really well in the Test format. You saw that in the last season. He produced match- winning performances in Dharamsala and Mohali Tests. He produced some really brilliant innings for the team,” he said.
“But as far as ODI cricket is concerned he really bats down the order and I feel those are certain things that get magnified because it’s not that only the lower-order should contribute, it’s also about what we did early on in the innings. So, let’s not be too harsh on Jadeja.
“Today he ended up conceding under 5 runs an over. He bowled with the wind while the other spinners were bowling against the wind. At times we are not going to churn out performances,” Bangar added.
Dhoni, who too came under fire for his unusually slow knock, also got the backing of Bangar.
“You need to assess the conditions. At times you need to play according to the demand of the situation. MS (Dhoni) is batting higher up the order.
“The kind of depth we have in our batting order at No. 6,7 and 8 when they can’t really come off, he (Dhoni) can’t play with the freedom that he should. It all boils down to how the batsmen at the other end are batting, how many wickets we have in hand,” the coach said.
Bangar was full of praise for the bowling unit for restricting West Indies below 200.
“He (Mohammad Shami) played warm-up games ahead of Champions Trophy, he picked up a couple of wickets. Even today he looked in good rhythm. Umesh bowled outstandingly well and so did Kuldeep Yadav. The bowling unit did really well to restrict them to 189. But today was an off day for our batters,” he said.
Bangar also supported the under-fire Yuvraj Singh, who has been below-par with the bat for quite some time.
“Yuvraj has been making some match-wining contributions at No. 4. Unfortunately he couldn’t play today because of a hamstring strain. But all in all we have lot of options for No. 4 position,” he concluded.