sport

Dhoni: Carry on batting, Sachin

Mahendra Singh Dhoni hopes master batsman Sachin Tendulkar will continue his Test career after Monday's series defeat against England.

Veteran Tendulkar mustered only 112 runs in six innings in the 2-1 loss and, at 39, it is obvious he is already in the twilight of his great career.

As Dhoni analysed India's first home series defeat in eight years, one of the most pertinent questions was on the subject of Tendulkar's future.

Asked whether he expects to see Tendulkar play Test cricket again, Dhoni said: "I hope so."

But pressed as to whether Tendulkar has told him he will, he said: "No."

With or without Tendulkar, India must pick themselves up from a disappointing campaign for forthcoming limited-overs series against Pakistan and then England, before they face Australia in Tests.

There will be many issues for Dhoni to address with urgency, but he was gracious in defeat as he paid tribute to England and cited fast bowler James Anderson as the most telling factor in a series which featured Alastair Cook as top run scorer and off-spinner Graeme Swann as leading wicket taker.

"They are a very well balanced side, the two spinners they have are very good," Dhoni added.

"Anderson bowled really well throughout the series on wickets where there wasn't much help for the fast bowlers.

"That was really crucial. He tested the batsmen all the time and kept them guessing. I thought the major difference between the two sides was James Anderson."

Dhoni's team, and perhaps coach Duncan Fletcher, are sure to face a storm of criticism for their failure on home soil.

But the captain will not be getting things out of proportion.

"Sure, it has been tough," he said. "But there are not many things that come close to what we went through when we lost in the 2007 World Cup, I don't think it's even close to that.

"We are going through a tough time and a stage where we will have to see what really works for us.

"If you don't give youngsters chances, how do you know whether they are good enough or not?

"They won't all get big hundreds in the very first game they play. Some of the very best players did not start off really well; some even scored four or five zeros and then turned out to be very good Test players.

"It's difficult to replace Rahul Dravid or Sachin Tendulkar or VVS Laxman...you have to back young players and give them a chance to prove themselves.

"We have a few big players who have left us, which means the youngsters will have to fill in the gaps and the seniors will have to take extra responsibility until the juniors start making runs and taking wickets."

India needed to win the final Test to level the series, but found themselves playing on a uniquely paceless surface tailor-made for the stalemate which gave England the series.

"We bowled for 10 hours and we got three batsmen out," Dhoni said.

"You can't just sit there and say we need to be aggressive. Aggression is not just about setting a silly-point or short-leg, or having a slip; you have to analyse where you can get a batsman out on a wicket like that.

"It's very difficult to make a good wicket in the sub-continent. They tried, but it's very tricky."