Sydney: India began and ended the year similarly. At Newlands, it was Mark Boucher and an injured Jacques Kallis who were allowed to get away when India were on top. At the MCG, it was the Australian lower order. At Newlands the India batsmen were in better form, and came out with a draw when they could have won. At the MCG the batsmen struggled, and India lost when they could have won.
At the heart of both those disappointments was how India spread the field as soon as they saw the lower order. Not a gradual phasing out of attack, no. Not reacting to a boundary or two. MS Dhoni has been going on the defensive as soon as the lower-order players come out to bat. At Newlands, Kallis, batting at No. 5 and battling the pain of a side strain, walked out to a long-on in place, and there was a deep point the moment he reverse-swept a four. On the first day in Melbourne, Brad Haddin came out to face a hat-trick ball at 5 for 205. That soon become 6 for 214, when Ed Cowan was dismissed, but in the next over Dhoni had long-on, deep midwicket and fine leg for Haddin.
Dhoni's defence for the welcome given to Haddin says all you need to know. "You have to see who was bowling," he said (it was R Ashwin who was bowling). "Haddin is a good player of spin. We were bowling first, which meant there were no rough patches to play with. It could have been easy pickings. What we wanted to do was see if he is good enough and takes a single every delivery. (In that case) we look to put pressure on the other batsmen or from the other end from which the fast bowlers were bowling. It's a strategy that goes your way or doesn't go your way. You have to back yourself."