April 1, 2011

ICC World Cup 2011

India get the hunger

Sharda Ugra

Napoelon would have been impressed. He's the man who said armies marched on their stomachs, but the Indian cricket team have managed to march (apologies for the martial metaphors) into the final of the world cup on empty tummies. Well almost. The Indians had gobbled down their first meal on the day of the semi-final only 15 minutes before the toss in Mohali.

In his last question at the media conference before the final, Dhoni was asked about the food scarcity encountered by the Indians on the morning of their most important match in the World Cup. Dhoni smiled ruefully, "That was one thing I didn't want to say," and then went on to explain what had happened. On the morning of the match, when the Indians went down for their usual 10am breakfast at their high-security Taj Hotel in Chandigarh, the team were told, Dhoni said by the hotel staff, "it would take more than an hour to serve your breakfast."

As the lone five-star deluxe hotel in Chandigarh, the Taj was packed to the gills on the day of the India v Pakistan semi-final with a high-security, high-priority guest list. It was the security protocol of the VIPs rather than their jumping the buffet queue that had led to this situation. The Indians then decided to travel to the ground to get what had fast become brunch, except when they turned up, the food in the dressing rom was not exactly they needed.

Dhoni said, before a packed room of astonished reporters, that the team had decided that they would have their first meal after the warm-ups. "These are the things which can distract you to some extent but what is important is what you can do about it... You may scream, you may shout but you won't get the food. So ... use the time in the best possible manner." The Indians warmed up, and ate their first meal before the toss and when Dhoni won it, the team were most grateful that most of them didn't have to run onto the field 45 minutes after eating.

The Taj Mahal Hotel in Bombay, where the teams are now housed for the final, will be on high alert before the final - but it won't be about breakfast. "Unlike in Mohali, in Mumbai, there are quite a few big hotels and we have quite a few friends who will be ready to bring food in half an hour's time," Dhoni said.

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Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo

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