India well prepared for pressure games - Dhoni

One of the most important benefits from India's scrappy World Cup semi-final victory over Pakistan - apart from the sound and sight of a hundred firecrackers going out around the PCA stadium on a Mohali night and the adoration of millions - is their team's sense of being in what captain MS Dhoni equated to a good spell.

Dhoni said the format of the World Cup had helped the Indians get to a stage just before the final where off-field distractions and on-field pressures could both be handled. "The format really helped us. We have had quite a few close games where we were tested. Some of the youngsters were tested. They were at the crease at a time when a big performance was needed from them. Slowly they are getting into the groove."

Dhoni said India's performances in the knockouts had given the team a greater sense of comfort going into the final, with regard to the pressures of the event. He compared the last week of the World Cup to a bowler bowling at more than 150kph. "Once you do that you don't think whether you are bowling 155 or 160. So I think after the semis, the final won't feel much different. The feeling (of the importance of a game) has been static for a while and hopefully that will really help us."

In the semi-final, Dhoni said the Indians had read the wicket incorrectly in deciding to opt for a 3-1 attack, replacing offspinner R Ashwin with left-arm seamer Ashish Nehra. It was driven, he said, by India's part-time options as well as Pakistani batsmen generally being at ease against spin. "We can manoeuvre with the part-timers. We thought on a normal Mohali pitch, you don't see assistance to spinners. The ball doesn't turn big time. Here the ball was stopping.

"I felt it was better to go with safer option, but we went with a safe option and misread the wicket."

The Indians, Dhoni said, had paced their innings against Pakistan well, particularly when compared to how they had handled the World Cup's middle and end overs prior to this game. The track, he said, became slower at the halfway stage, and with the Pakistanis bowling tight and India losing Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh off consecutive deliveries, it had become difficult to rotate the strike. "Their spinners bowled really well, even Mohammad Hafeez was able to capitalise." The innings calculation had then been tempered down. "After losing two wickets in the middle overs it is important to bat 50 overs in big games, you shouldn't look to score 300-320. If the wicket is behaving in a different way, re-adjust your target."

Dhoni said he had thought India's total of 260 was "a good score not a safe score" and India's immediate target had been to "not give away runs with the new ball."

All that Dhoni was willing to comment on about the first-ever all-Asian World Cup final to be held on April 2 was to praise the Sri Lankans for their progress through the tournament. India he said, "have also really been tested more often than not and it will be a really good game. It's not about what your rating is but how good you are on the day. You have to be at your best."