ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / News

India v Sri Lanka, final, World Cup 2011, Mumbai

We felt the pressure - Dhoni

Sharda Ugra at the Wankhede Stadium

April 3, 2011

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It was the first time in six weeks that MS Dhoni could be heard doing what can only be described as giggling. Usually self-contained, the India captain arrived at the underground media conference room, World Cup medal around his neck, Man-of-the-Tournament Yuvraj Singh at his side, and turned into someone else.

Twisted into a knot of concentration and anxiety for six weeks during the World Cup, now that the title has been won, Dhoni suddenly found he could let all the tension go, take a step back from the edge, and relax. More than once in a 25-minute conversation, Dhoni collapsed in mirth, pressing the microphone to his forehead because he couldn't remember the first part of two long questions he had been asked. Or it may have been because one of the questions wanted his reaction to some public sentiment that he should now try to run the country.

Normally he replies to questions only in English, even when asked in Hindi. But on Saturday night, Dhoni switched languages several times as he spoke of the strains his team had been under during the World Cup.

"The pressure you go through is a lot; we felt it throughout the tournament," he said before describing what it was like inside the Indian team's bubble. "If you ask the players, they were not eating well because of anxiety. Not pressure, but anxiety. There would be food in front of you but you wouldn't feel like eating it."

To find a way to adjust to the nervousness, Dhoni said the players tried dealing with nerves in differnt ways. "We said avoid it, do this, do that," but the strain was always felt. However, everyone in the squad had, Dhoni said, eventually coped well. "The kind of extra responsibility that each and everybody had was enormous. This is what we had wanted to achieve; we had set our eyes on it one-and-a-half years ago."

Sitting next to him was Yuvraj, the player who exemplified both the performance India put in and the anxiety they had been through on their way to becoming the first team to win a World Cup final at home. When Dhoni was asked how Yuvraj had been in the dressing room during the tournament, he replied with a smile: "He has been vomiting a lot," and then went on to answer the question.

Yuvraj Singh roars as MS Dhoni uproots stumps after taking India to victory in the World Cup final, World Cup 2011, Mumbai, April 2, 2011
MS Dhoni was confused with emotion for a moment after hitting the winning runs, before he reached for a stump © AFP

Yuvraj told ESPNcricinfo, as he crossed the Wankhede to return to his dressing room, that he had been physically ill several times during the tournament. "Anxiety, anxiety," he explained. "This was the World Cup and that anxiety can really be heavy."

The burden that Yuvraj and his team-mates had been carrying around over the last six weeks suddenly fell away after the final. Everything had turned into lightness. When he first entered the media conference room, Yuvraj climbed onto the dais, calling out loudly to the journalists: "badhaiyaan ho, badhaiyaan ho [congratulations, congratulations]". During the session the two men traded jokes, and towards the end, Yuvraj was heard saying under his breath to his captain in Hindi: "short answer, please."

Dhoni is not given to particularly short answers, except when he kills a question with a joke. He spoke lucidly of what was going through his mind after he hit the winning runs. "Emotionally, I was confused; I wanted a wicket [stump]". But he found himself at the centre of the pitch with Yuvraj at the other end. "I thought hug-vug we will do later, first take the wicket." He then ran over to his own end to pull out the stump, after which Yuvraj jumped on him, pulling him into a bear hug. "It was an emotional moment," Dhoni said. "I was confused, I didn't know what to do at the time, how to show my emotions."

The decision to promote himself up the order ahead of the in-form Yuvraj had also, Dhoni said, been taken under a certain kind of pressure because of the risk it involved. "It was a big decision, I knew that if I promoted myself and didn't score runs I would be asked why I couldn't stay back? If I promoted myself there would be two left-hand batsmen after me and if I got out the side may have been in trouble."

He said the decision was based on the logic that as Gambhir was batting well, all Dhoni would need to do was rotate strike. Also, India knew the dew factor was going to kick in and Dhoni believed he had the added advantage of being able to read Muttiah Muralitharan's doosra. "I have played a lot with Murali [for the Chennai Super Kings] and I know his doosra quite well, and he knows that also. I was able to put a bit of pressure on him"

The advantage of running well with Gambhir - their partnership extending back to their India A days in 2003-2004 - also tilted the decision towards promoting himself. "We don't take risky singles but try to convert one or one-and-a-half runs into two runs. It was an ideal combination and we were batting together after a long time. We ran well, and backed each other. We knew if we took the game close enough with the Powerplay left, we would achieve the target even if the runs needed were eight an over."

Dhoni is now India's most successful captain in limited-overs cricket, having won both the World Twenty20 and the World Cup, and when asked to explain his success, he laughed. "I'm lucky. I always get good players. The players have responded to me even if it's a Test side, where there were senior players who were part of the side before I started playing for India. Then, the youngsters coming in have contributed a lot, they have been willing to give more than 100%." He said it was "the character of the individuals [in the team] that helped us win this trophy."

India's win came inside the refurbished Wankhede Stadium, where the stands are now built on a vertical climb and the capacity has been reduced to 33,000. On Saturday night, however, the sound created was amplified as the partnerships for the third and fourth wickets grew. The crowd, Dhoni said, gave the batsmen strength. "During the Gambhir-Kohli partnership, ever run was applauded as if it was a boundary."

The dew on the ground had helped the Indian batsmen, as did the easing up of the wicket. But the key according to Dhoni was the combined effort. "It was a pressure game, but everyone contributed. When you share the pressure then it becomes easy."

India's performance at the World Cup, Dhoni said, had been based on a plan that was born about 18 months ago and was a result of methodically resting and rotating players. "We wanted to win the trophy for each other first. The first thing you want to do is give them [team-mates and support staff] happiness; to see it in their eyes."

He said that rather than try to expand the number of people for whom the World Cup was to be won, the team said: "Okay let's concentrate and keep it small. If you do well and win the World Cup, the whole country has a share in it."

Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Comments: 106 
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Posted by Big on (April 4, 2011, 15:46 GMT)

Congratulations India!!!!! This was a terrific and famous win. Both teams had one loss and one tie/NR before final. Both have wicketkeeper/batsman as their captain. Both teams were #2 at the end of their group stage. The only difference, India beat previous World cup champions to reach final and Srilanka beat teams who have never won the world-cup. Despite of this win, Team India will be (as always) humble and polite unlike other team that we know of. Chak de India.

Posted by Mradul on (April 4, 2011, 14:48 GMT)

Well Done Team India!. We played the first Match, we played the last match (Only team to do so), we Won the first match, we Won the last match (only team to do so), we hit the first ball of WC to boundary, we hit the last ball of the WC out of Boundary, we were among favorites before WC, we are Worthy Champions after the World Cup!!!

Posted by Dummy4 on (April 4, 2011, 14:43 GMT)

I was waiting 4 this moment in my life!! I can die with happiness now!!may the ghosts of 2003 Wcup rest in peace!!A huge monkey is off the back now!!! as it is said that nothing succeeds like success I have some fascinating facts- -sri lanka lost both Wcup finals when they were outperformed by the wicketkeeper.Even in their T20 cup 2009 final,kamran demolished their bowling, -india won both ODI Wcups on saturday, -india started the campaign with a 4 and ended it with a 6, -india played their last and first match against the 2 teams with oustered then in 2007 Wcup, -Shane Warne emerged as "PAUL" of cricket, -sri lanka didn't beat any Wcup winning side in this Wcup, -mahela scored ton in a losing cause, -highest ever run chase in final, -274 was enough 4 srilanka 2 win..but they saw rajni & ghajini in crowd.. -home side jinx broken, -gambhir top scored under MS in both finals of 2007 t20 and this one, -srilanka drinking the tea in plate...coz india took away the cup.LOL

Posted by Dummy4 on (April 4, 2011, 11:43 GMT)

Yes this achievement was meant just for Tendulkar!! I would say JUST FOR TENDULKAR....we all know what he has given to INDIAN CRICKET...his life...and yes he is the GOD of indian cricket or i wld say for the cricketing world...Virat Kholi said it so right..."The best statement so far after the historic achievement "Tendulkar has carried the burden of the nation for 21 years. It is time we carried him on our shoulders," said Virat Kohli...well said...... 'CONGRATULATION INDIA'

Posted by RAGHURAM on (April 4, 2011, 11:27 GMT)

This win should silence the critics (read media & others) who don't have any knowledge about the game and just open their mouth to pick faults in Dhoni's decisions..... It has always been known that Dhoni takes decisions based on his intution / 6th sense.... He made "Joginder Sharma" bowl the last over during the 2007 T20 World Cup and India won. In the semi-final agst. Pakistan, he took Ashish Nehra in place of Ashwin and won. In the final, he took two bold decisions which lots of so-called experts were not in favour. He dropped Ashwin for Sreeshant, and then he promoted himself ahead of inform Yuvraj.... I am sure these so-called experts / critics must be hiding somewhere after this fantastic results. It is rightly said "Luck favours the Brave". Dhoni has been brave enough to take bold decisions and luck favoured him.... WELL DONE DHONI & TEAM INDIA!!!!

Posted by Venkat on (April 4, 2011, 10:17 GMT)

Not sure whether this was noticed in the avalanche of other performances in the WC. SL was going great guns in their batting. Mahela played one of his deft late cuts along with the slip region and the ball had 4 written on it all over as soon it left the bat. That was until one little man hounded in from the boundary and flung himself onto the ball and saved 2 runs. That moment typified the legend of the man TENDULKAR for me. At 38yrs, tiring body, out in the hot Mumbai sun for hours and facing a certain boundary for an excellent shot. No one would have complained had sachin taken the easy way route to route the ball back to the field from the ball boys. But the ball boy turned superstar still put in a gladiatorial performance just for saving those 2 runs. In that moment I could completely relate to Sachin on his unfulfilled yearnings of 21yrs - His long journey, hardships, failings and the will to win the cup that matters. Finally MIB did manage to pull it off for Sachin and INDIA

Posted by Hariharan on (April 4, 2011, 9:11 GMT)

@ChiranthaJayasena - Yeah, u r right. Dhoni missed to greet mahela and SL.Well Played Srilanka . But mate,u don have the quality to point out the mistake that Dhoni have done, as u r making some bad comments about ur neighbourts based on act of very few people in India... U need to correct ur thought buddy.

nyways, am very happy to c India liofting the cup...

Posted by venkat on (April 4, 2011, 8:30 GMT)

When Aishwarya Rai won Miss World every body was happy n enjoyed the success as they fely it was genuine. When Indians started winning every year after that people lost inetrest and thought it was a commrcial gimmick! let us wait and see what people think about how it is with Cricket?

Posted by Jibin on (April 4, 2011, 7:52 GMT)

Well DONE..INDIA. I can see LOVE, RESPECT & HARD WORK on our Team players than before. I Think this is the reason to WIN this WC. Really a Proud Moment. Once Again Congrats to Gary, MSD, Sachin & All INDIANS. Same time I wish to Congragulate Team SRILANKA. They really played Well. Mahela, Sanga, Malinga, Murali. They also proud becoz they made a good total. Hats off to MURALI.

Posted by Rajesh on (April 4, 2011, 7:24 GMT)

Well done India. Difference between India and Sri Lanka was the self-belief. India always believed in themselves and played to win. Sri Lanka were defensive throughout the game and lack of conviction costed them the final. Accepting 'India as favorites' worked against their killer instict.

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