Dhoni breaks down the chase method
With MS Dhoni in the side, India have chased in 141 matches. They have won 82 of those games, with Dhoni remaining not out in 38 with an average of 109.19. On Saturday, after digging India out of another hole while pursuing a target against Zimbabwe at Eden Park, Dhoni broke down how he deals with such high-pressure situations.
It's all about setting "small targets", he said, and showing an amount of self-control. "I think what's important is to break the number of runs into small, small [requirements]: these next two or three overs, we need to take 10 runs or 15 runs or even eight runs.
"Today [Suresh] Raina was batting well and that took the pressure off me. What is important when chasing targets is if [the form of] one is cold, the other has to take over and you have to run well between wickets, that's key. You can't get runs just with the big shots, the reason being batting at No. 6, there's only maybe one batsman after you and it puts pressure. The top one, two, three can play their big shots, but if you go in at six or seven, you have to think maybe three times before you play the big shots.
"When you take the big score and break it into small targets and you keep achieving those targets, it gives you confidence. Also a factor, who is bowling well, who can you target? It sounds really complicated, but more often than not when you are in those situations it's the subconscious that is working."
India came into this match having won five games out of five and hardly experiencing any pressure, save for a short period against West Indies. So, Dhoni said, he was happy the team got a good workout before the knockouts.
"I think it couldn't have been better. In the sense, if you are playing the last game of the league stage, if you get an easy win, you don't get a lot out of that. What was good was that both spinners were put under pressure and also we lost wickets initially, and that put out middle and lower middle order under pressure. So I think we gained a lot out of it."
India go into the knockouts having topped Group B, not something many would have expected after their poor tour to Australia where they followed a Test series loss by not making the final of the tri-series. However, since winning the previous World Cup, India have largely done well in global tournaments, especially in the must-win games: India have played seven knockouts across the 2011 World Cup, the 2013 Champions Trophy and the 2014 World T20, winning six of them.
Despite not having vast experience in these games, Dhoni said, the team is always mentally conditioned to deal with them. "It's quite easy to deal with, the experience that we've got. Yes we don't have that many players who've played 150 games or 170 games, but we have that experience in that we've played the Champions Trophy well and it's almost the same side. Then also the World T20 last time. They know in the knockout stage they have to lift their game.
"Also it's something that we keep addressing, that as you go into the tournament, there are situations where you have to win that 50-50 scenario since you might not get a second chance, you have to be at your best. I think the guys will be well equipped when it comes to the communication part to handle the situation."
Nikita Bastian is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo