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CWC 2015: Need To Mitigate Pressure of The Big Game – Dhoni

February 15th, 2015 | by admin
CWC 2015: Need To Mitigate Pressure of The Big Game – Dhoni

The last question in MS Dhoni’s pre-match press conference brought a rare admission from the India captain. He was asked whether instead of calling an India-Pakistan match just another game or treating it as a potential calamity, it was wiser to acknowledge that it was somewhere in between the two.

“How much ever you keep saying about it being just like any other normal game, it is a bit different,” Dhoni said. “What we try is to keep that slight difference nominal, and try to play like we would against any other international team.”

“Just another game” is used liberally by both India and Pakistan captains, to try and prevent any additional pressure before they meet each other. It does not really matter if you win, but if you lose, it sounds a lot more palatable that you lost to the better cricketing side on the day than to the old foe.

But inside, everyone knows it is not even close to being just another match you turn up for. There is just too much history and baggage involved for that to be the case.

The danger for a team is that you can easily let all the off-field stuff get into your head, and turn up on match day half the player you are. And especially if you are the captain, you can take the entire unit down with you. Mohammad Hafeez was a pale shadow of the expressive, thoughtful man he usually is against India during their 2012 World T20 encounter in Colombo. His 15 runs at the top of the order consumed 28 deliveries, and drained energy from the Pakistan innings as soon as it began, resulting in a heavy defeat.

The logical thing to do would be to pay respect to the heightened importance of the occasion, but attempt to not get so overawed by the expectations. Which is what Dhoni and India have been trying to do.

Their recent performances leading into the game have only added to the pressure. Nearly three months in Australia without a single win in an official game. In a way, they really have had no choice but to attempt to bring it down to “nominal”, as Dhoni said.

“It is important to leave the past behind. If we would have not done so starting from the first Test (against Australia), I would have gone down under the table in the dressing room, there would have been so much pressure,” Dhoni said. “Already there is so much pressure, if you take additional pressure, it becomes very difficult to perform.”

The arrival of the World Cup has actually brought about a lighter atmosphere for the Indians. They had a few off days after the triangular one-day series against Australia and England.

Dhoni said that the atmosphere the fans have created in the build-up, and will create during the match, has been helpful in moving on from the Indians’ past few months in Australia. That is revealing of how India approach high-profile matches under Dhoni. There will be thousands of screaming fans anyway. It is in your own interest if you are able to see that as uplifting rather than an obstruction. It is difficult to achieve that, but the right way usually is hard.

India had enveloped themselves in a cocoon of playing football during training throughout their unbeaten run to the 2014 World T20 final. It was their way of resisting the pressure by denying it an entry into their little world.

They have trained hard leading into this one. All three spinners in the squad had long batting stints in the outdoor nets the afternoon before the match. All of them looked reasonably solid. Dhoni even had a stint against the bowling machine in the indoor nets. India are giving this match the respect it deserves.

Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Shikhar Dhawan. All of them joked about during practice at St Peters College a day ago. Chatting to some journalists, team director Ravi Shastri jokingly told the passing Rohit Sharma that he was keeping the vultures away from him. Rohit had a hearty laugh. India are also trying to bring the extra pressure down to “nominal.”

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