'Greater victory than World Twenty20' - Dhoni
"This is a greater victory than the World Twenty20," was captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni's reaction after India won their first tri-series in Australia, succeeding at the formidable task of beating the top-ranked side in their own den twice.
Dhoni, who has now led India to victory in two prestigious events in the last seven months, attributed the results to a team effort. "The role of the captain was not the only one. The captain is one guy who gathers the pressure and then channels it to the individual player and then it depends on how that individual reacts," he said. "We didn't start that well but we improved as the tournament went on and the credit should go to every player."
India's batting, which has been their biggest weakness throughout the tournament, came into its own during the finals with Sachin Tendulkar hitting top form. Tendulkar followed up his stellar performance at the SCG on Sunday with a vital 91 in Brisbane. Despite ordinary performances early in the tournament, Dhoni never doubted his senior-most batsman. "Performance is one thing, but performing back-to-back is something else. He is the best."
Dhoni was relieved India had wrapped up the series at the Gabba thereby avoiding the trip to Adelaide. Was he desperate that they complete the job in Brisbane? "Yes, because I have not ridden my motorbike for quite a long time," Dhoni joked but added that a third game would have been taxing for his players, some of whom have been away from home for about three months.
After a resounding victory in the first final, India's decision to bat first in Brisbane paid off with Tendulkar and Robin Uthappa giving them a solid opening stand of 94. While India have shuffled their batting order during the series, Dhoni said Uthappa's promotion to the opening slot had given the batting a settled look. "Robin changed his game a little bit and reacted to the situation and curbed his aggressive instincts."
Throughout the tournament, like in the ICC World Twenty20, Dhoni surprised many with his team selections and his on-field strategies. For the crucial final over in the World Twenty20 final, he threw the ball to the inexperienced Joginder Sharma, in the first final here he asked Praveen Kumar, another rookie, to take the new ball. That move paid off; Praveen got crucial top-order scalps and did an encore at the Gabba.
The other surprise was to play the legspinner Piyush Chawla, who was overlooked during the league phase, in the finals. "We wanted to play Piyush, and wanted him to use as a surprise. He mixed it up really well was consistent in his line and length."
When the squad was picked Dhoni had strongly recommended the presence of youngsters. While that gamble has now proved successful, he said he never doubted that it was the only way ahead. "Even if we had lost this tournament, we should have stuck with the young boys. This will be the team's core."
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo