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World Cup 2011

Dhoni plays down World Cup hype

Siddarth Ravindran at the Chinnaswamy Stadium

February 10, 2011

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The weight of expectation on the Indian cricket team, heavy at the best of times, has risen exponentially with the World Cup being held at home and India among the favourites. MS Dhoni's response as captain, at his first official World Cup press conference on Thursday, was typical: he played with a straight bat, deflecting questions so that the pressure on the team doesn't rise further.

The mantra was "focus on process and preparation" (and not results or other things like Gary Kirsten's exit as India coach), pressure isn't pressure anymore but responsibility, no opposition team was identified as a threat ("all teams are dangerous"), the Indian team had a good mix of experienced players ("who know how to handle pressure") and youngsters ("who can change the course of the game"). And, significantly, not winning the World Cup is not the end of the world.

"A lot of hype is created around the World Cup but every series that the Indian team plays we have a lot of expectation," Dhoni said in Bangalore. "We are supposed to win the World Cup, the atmosphere was same in 2007, it won't be right to consider this as one of the final frontiers, it's one of the big tournaments, the team needs to do well, (but) it's always the process and preparation that will help us achieve success, not thinking about what's coming and how big the tournament is."

Dhoni also sidestepped a question on the importance of the tournament for the one-day format. "I'm a big fan of fifty-over cricket. That doesn't mean I don't like Twenty20s or Tests. It's a big stage, big fan following and everybody is looking forward to it."

What was Dhoni's view on the prolonged World Cup, stretching over 43 days when its football counterpart typically picks out a winner in a month? "It is very difficult to form a perfect schedule and format. A tournament schedule will be either too long or too short but I am quite happy with the schedule. It will give us time to recover from small niggles."

India's first warm-up match is against Australia on Sunday, and it will be Ricky Ponting's first game in more than six weeks after being sidelined by a finger injury. Would India target him with short deliveries? "We'll see about the strategy later."

Today at least there was no visible strategy during the first official training session except that Virat Kohli got special attention from Kirsten, initially during the fielding drills, and later during the throw-downs. Kohli, one of the most prolific Indian ODI batsmen in 2010, would keep his fingers crossed to make his World Cup debut though the return of Gautam Gambhir in the top order has made his position uncertain. But today, Kirsten worked hard on the youngster's technique, trying to make sure the bat-swing was coming down straight before the point of impact with the ball.

It was not a simple day at work for Kohli , who earlier intently heard the pair of Kirsten and Dhoni explain to him the right body position while taking catches in close positions like slips. Both men laid emphasis on anticipation being the key. Whatever they said, Kohli underwent some anxious moments, dropping a couple of straightforward catches. But his seniors were patient and continued to correct his fielding stance.

In contrast to light-hearted practice on Wednesday, the Indians had a four-hour long rigorous training session with Kirsten and Dhoni supervising the batsmen while the pair of Eric Simons and Zaheer Khan taking care of the fast bowlers. Harbhajan Singh, after a short spell with the ball, enjoyed playing the axe-murderer alongside Dhoni, using the bat akin to golfers using their drivers. Nine days before the tournament opener against Bangladesh, the Indians appeared in the right frame of mind.

Dhoni's play-it-safe strategy at a spruced-up Chinnaswamy Stadium ("the dressing room looks better, doesn't mean the dressing room wasn't good before") should keep the headlines sober as well. It will also ensure that, after entering the past three ICC events touted as title-winners before ending up well short, the Indian team aren't distracted from their challenge of living up to their billing as leading contenders this time around.

Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by Oveiz on (February 13, 2011, 8:50 GMT)

Hey der.... India should play smart with their Playing 11 in this world cup.... As every cricket fan is aware that d game has become a batsman's game since IPL has been introduced......so instead of opting for Ashish Nehra or Sreesanth in d team and giving away 60-70 runs in deir individual 10 overs quota,its better to ask our part timers to chip in with their variation with the likes of Yusuf,Yuvraj,Raina,Sehwag and giving d same amount of runs wat our specialist bowlers always tend to do...... Plz do think about it logically as all you players r representing us dat is India so plz dont be biased or selfish....... If der r people who agree with me den plz post as many comments as you can to get this message noticed......Here is d team we wud expect ....V Sehwag,SR Tendulkar,G Gambhir,V Kohli,Yuvraj Singh,SK Raina,YK Pathan,MS Dhoni*†,Harbhajan Singh,Z Khan,MM Patel.....i m sorry if i said anything wrong friends,its d passion for d game and love for ma country speaking......Love U All

Posted by Dummy4 on (February 13, 2011, 8:04 GMT)

Prediction Pool A Qualifiers.. 1. Australia 2. Pakistan 3. Sri Lanka 4. New Zealand Pool B Qualifiers 1. South Africa 2. India 3. England 4. Bangladesh First Quarter final...Australia vs Bangladesh...Aus will win. 2nd Quarter final....Pakistan vs England.......Pak will win. 3rd Quarter final....Lanka vs India.........India will win. 4th Quarter final....New Zealand vs South Africa...South Africa will win. First Semi Final....Aus vs India......India will win. 2nd Semi Final....Pak vs South Africa.....Pak will win. FINAL....Pak vs India......Pakistan will win the world cup.

Posted by Dummy4 on (February 12, 2011, 19:55 GMT)

Pool A Qualifiers.. Pool B Qualifiers 1. Australia 1. South Africa 2. Pakistan 2. India 3. Sri Lanka 3.England 4. New Zealand 4. Bangladesh

First Quarter final...Australia vs Bangladesh...Aus will win. 2nd Quarter final....Pakistan vs England.......Pak will win. 3rd Quarter final....Lanka vs India.........India will win. 4th Quarter final....New Zealand vs South Africa...South Africa will win.

First Semi Final....Aus vs India......India will win. 2nd Semi Final....Pak vs South Africa.....Pak will win.

FINAL....Pak vs India......Pakistan will win the world cup.

Posted by SACHEEN on (February 12, 2011, 15:16 GMT)

India looks like they will loose in quarterfinals.Gut feeling says that its the beginning of the end of Dhoni era in Indian cricket.Two years down the line with SRT and others leaving, India will struggle for impact just like the Aussies now...Interesting times ahead..

Posted by Dummy4 on (February 12, 2011, 13:45 GMT)

India's recent show against SA indicates how fit they are. They mean business now. Beware of Pakistan though, your domestic IPL and ICL record shows that only one Pakistani player can take any team to the semis while playing on Indian wickets. Here they're fighting to recover from an injured pride. GOOD LUCK

Posted by Coolest on (February 12, 2011, 11:07 GMT)

Virat Kohli does NOT need any special attention from Kirsten or Dhoni for fielding, batting or anything period. He is doing better then everyone else in the team and he has the best batting technique after SRT. He was the best batsmen and the best fielder in the last series played in SA. He scored more runs then anyone else and also took the best catches in the whole series. Dhoni and the rest of the Indian team should take some lessons from Kohli instead.

Posted by darius on (February 12, 2011, 11:04 GMT)

well @babur durrani u shud be concerned bout pakistan.im afraid rather confident that pakistan is going to create a history which they wud never like to achieve.a hatrrick of first round exits in the world cups.huge achievement lol

Posted by Dummy4 on (February 12, 2011, 8:44 GMT)

I Think Dhoni seriously needs to think about his own poor form, he hasn't scored a century in last 10 ODI's and doesn't know how to play on bouncy wickets, and yet he gives suggestions to Kohli for fielding, where as he himself drops 2-3 catches every match behind the stumps. This worldcup being in india, has to be an easiest way for dhoni to win the worldcup, but remember teams like Pakistan and Srilanka will come up stronger, especially pakistan, cause Indian wickets are slower and according to the pitches they have in pakistan, srilanka has the most balanced squad now after 1996's worldcup, the presence of Tharanga, sangakara, and Jayawardene makes it a dangerous side, I'm sure they will reach the semis. but Indian's can't win the worldcup, cause they can't handle the pressure from their public, and over-confident feelings.

Posted by Dummy4 on (February 12, 2011, 8:02 GMT)

Dhoni is trying to get out of kohli a quality slip fielder like rahul dravid,most probably. this is quite the hint of things to come,surprises. why not?? a world cup in subcontinent is expected to have quite a bagful of them. It would be an unforgettable extravaganza in the subcontinent. It surely promises to be one of most exciting of it's breed. it's only going to be an icing on the cake, if India manage to win this one. The team appears to be in a very good frame of mind, not getting overawed by the situation as Dhoni's "WC is not the end of world" comment suggests. That's the attitude which lets Dhoni stay as cool as he does and explains why he is so unflappable. All the best India. The only thing we can do is sit back and enjoy the grandest of sporting spectacles in this part of the world,to say the least as it unfolds over 43 days starting from 19th of this february.

Posted by siddharth on (February 12, 2011, 3:13 GMT)

india needs slow and steady steady start maybe 40-0 of 10 overs still wud b gud

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