Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni today said his side missed the experience of Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman to weather the storm created by South African pacer Dale Steyn in the first Test here.
Steyn took 10 wickets in the match with a career-best 7/51 in India's first innings to help South Africa crush the hosts by an innings and six runs and Dhoni said they were completely blown away by the visiting fast bowler.
"We were blown away by Dale Steyn by his swing, both conventional and reverse. We missed Rahul and Laxman to some extent but cannot do anything about injuries. Rohit Sharma (named as cover for Laxman) got injured 15 minutes before the toss," Dhoni said at the post-match press conference.
"(Murali) Vijay did a decent job at no 3 and S Badrinath and (Wriddhiman) Saha got a chance to get exposed to international cricket," he added.
Dhoni conceded his side were completely outplayed by the visitors.
"We were outplayed by South Africa in all departments. The way Steyn bowled made the difference in the match. We were doing decently till tea when they got the ball changed (after tea yesterday) and he got the ball to reverse. I do not take away any credit from Steyn. He had bowled 12-15 overs before that (change) and still bowled his heart out," Dhoni said.
On Laxman's availability for the second Test starting in Kolkata on Sunday, Dhoni said, "He is practising at nets and a clearer picture would emerge on Thursday."
In awe of Steyn, Dhoni said such spell of conventional swing bowling had not been seen on Indian soil for some time.
"Steyn showed one of the best displays of conventional swing bowling seen in India in recent years. We have seen reverse swing happening of late but here was a bowler using conventional swing to his advantage," the Indian skipper said.
Steyn was well supported by slow left arm bowler Paul Harris who chocked the run-flow of the Indians with his over-the-wicket line of attack and Dhoni said they would look to bleed him in the next match.
"He's a bowler who can bowl 30 overs and give away only 50 runs. It's difficult to score against his line of attack. He's not a big turner of the ball but uses the bowler's roughs. We will look to play more shots off him," he said.
With India missing Dravid and Laxman, a lot was expected from opener Virender Sehwag. While Sehwag scored an important 109 in the first innings, the delhi dasher threw away his wicket scoring 16 in the second.
However, Dhoni sprung to Sehwag's defense.
"Sehwag is a match winner and has won more matches for us than lost. That's the way he plays. If you remember just one to one and half years ago he won us a Test against England by his batting in Chennai. He's at his best when he plays aggressively and puts the opposition bowlers under pressure. He's been very successful in the way he plays," Dhoni said.
Dhoni also backed Harbhajan Singh, who has looked quite innocuous in his recent outings and said a bowler of his experience will certainly come into his own soon.
India plays South Africa in the second Test at Eden Gardens in Kolkata and Dhoni said his pacers would look to reverse swing the ball.
"It will be very helpful to us but we will do it in a legitimate way," he said.
The Indian stumper also refuted the theory that a fifth bowler was missed in the first Test.
"If four bowlers cannot do the job what can the fifth bowler do. We always play four specialist bowlers in India. We don't have the luxury of the South Africans who have Jacques Kallis as the all rounder to do the fifth bowler's job," Dhoni pointed out.
We miss Dravid, Laxman: Dhoni
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