“Batting down the order is one of the toughest things to do especially on wickets like these. There will be pressure to rotate, to get a partnership. It’s not easy. You don’t always get a player who’s complete and bats at no 5, 6 or 7,” Dhoni said in the post-match news conference.
Lower down the order, Axar Patel (38) and Amit Mishra (14) had revived India’s hope but before they could convert it into a match-winning partnership the latter was run out.
Asking for more patience to be shown with the inexperienced middle-order, Dhoni said: “Batting down the order on wickets like this when you’re chasing is always going to be tough. You will have to give them time. They will find their way. After they get more and more games like this they will figure out what suits best for them to chase a total.
“On a wicket like this, when the score was not too much, you need partnerships. With two new balls, it comes on to bat better initially. The wicket slows down. It does not come on to the bat that well. It was a difficult phase and it becomes difficult to rotate.
“When you have partnerships going a lot of stuff becomes easier. If you lose wickets at that point of time, it adds to the pressure. Bowlers tend to bowl in right areas and becomes difficult,” he added.
With this win, New Zealand levelled the five-match series 2-2 and now head to Visakhapatnam for the final one-dayer on Saturday.
One of the best run chasers in world cricket, Kohli was caught behind in his attempt to cut a wide delivery from leg-spinner Ish Sodhi and his rare failure coincided with India losing the match.
Asked whether India were heavily reliant on Kohli, Dhoni said: “It’s not like that. The stats don’t exactly reflect the exact scenario.”
India have not won a bilateral series since November 2014, if one discounts the two clean sweeps against Zimbabwe in July 2015 and June 2016.
Pointing out that India had played less one-day matches in the last one and half months, Dhoni said: “We have not played much ODIs. In between we had Zimbabwe. It’s very difficult.
“Also I’ve batted at different position in that period. Our top order was batting brilliantly. So everything is very different.”
Dhoni pointed out that the pitch was sluggish and slowed down, drawing parallel to the Delhi ODI where New Zealand won by six runs, defending 242 in the second one-dayer.
“There have been a couple of game where the wicket has been on the slower side, where the opposition, if they scored 300-plus there’s more often you keep playing your shots to chase it down,” he said.
“When the wickets are slow, and required run-rate is not too high, that’s when you calculate and play out a few overs thinking of a partnership. I feel that’s where it lies as of now. We have quite a few batsmen who can do the job.”
India had lost opener Rohit Sharma (11) cheaply for the team’s score of 19 but Rahane and Kohli put life into the chase with a 79-run partnership for the second wicket.
“The partnership was needed more than anything else at that point of time. Given the requirement of the game, he was batting well and generally he bats in that fashion. I don’t think there was anything wrong in it,” Dhoni said.