ICC Cricket World Cup, 2014/15 news from ESPN

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

cricket world cup 2015- The 'magic wand' behind India's turnaround

It has helped that India have a captain who has lasted as long as he has due to his approach of treating cricket for what it is: a game

It is a 15-minute leisurely walk along the Swan riverfront in Perth to a restaurant serving simple south Indian meals near the jetty. A couple of India players and a member of the support staff strolled along to the place last evening to enjoy a relaxed dinner. It was a busy time at the restaurant, but no one disturbed the players while they ate, barring a single fan who also patiently agreed to wait for a photograph till they had finished.
Personal space in public places is a luxury for Indian cricketers back home, and they enjoy whatever precious leeway they get while touring. They have to come to value this space so much that they guard it zealously from all outside interference. They like to exist in their own cocoon - just the players and the support staff. Come occasions with still greater scrutiny than their usual high levels such as the World Cup, the cocoon enveloping the squad only gets thicker, shutting them from the world as much as possible. 
It becomes even more critical then that the inner space around the squad remains free of negatives, and an enabling atmosphere is created. Especially when you have been on the road for three months, and are expected to do so for another month. Especially when you have won nothing in those three months leading into a world tournament where you are the defending champions.
You go right away into the two big games in your group, against arch-rivals Pakistan, and South Africa, a side you have never beaten previously in a World Cup. Watchers are expecting you to beat the weaker sides in the group and scrape to the knockouts riding on the predictability of the format. And you come up with two thumping victories in matches you were widely expected to lose. The team management, the support staff, the captain and the players face flak when the side does not do well. They also deserve credit for delivering such a sensational start to their World Cup title defence.
MS Dhoni was asked what magic wand had he used to engineer this turnaround. He put it down to the squad having faith in each other and keeping together during tough times previously on the tour.
"I think it's the belief and trust that we have in each other," Dhoni said. "What's very important is to have that belief and that magic wand actually is the support staff and the 15 players because irrespective of what others think, what really matters is what 15 people who are part of the team are thinking and how the management is working. If we are moving in one direction and we are together, there are more chances of us making a strong comeback."
As always, it has helped that they have a captain who has lasted as long as he has due to his approach of treating cricket for what it is: a game. "It's not the end of the world, and that's how I feel any sport needs to be taken," Dhoni had said when asked how the side had dealt with their winless months in Australia.
It is how Dhoni had approached the Pakistan game as well, saying that no matter who the opposition was, you were going to earn the same number of points for a win. Although he had admitted it was not a normal game, he promised his players would try to treat it as that. Which is what they managed to do.
Living in the present might sound a cliché but that is what India have had to do in Australia. They had no option but to put away the losses where they belonged: in the past. There is already enough pressure of expectations in the present, according to Dhoni, for the players to entangle themselves in thoughts of past defeats.
Whatever Dhoni wanted from his squad in the build-up to the tournament could not be achieved if the spirits sank in the dressing room, highly probable when the wins are not coming.
"Well, that's really the job of the leader," Dhoni said. "What we wanted to do from a management point of view was to keep the morale high. It is very crucial because if the morale is down then it becomes more difficult to come back. Everybody is smiling, and even going through a lot of difficulties and problems, and if you turn up every day to improve yourself as a cricketer, you know the result will follow."
India have ensured the players get to totally switch off from the game on the days they are not training. Recreational activities and outings have been organised to try and keep some freshness intact amid the jadedness that can easily set in on such an extended trip.
On the other hand, India have also tried to get the most out of training sessions. They have often requested for centre-wicket nets. Practice has been intense and focused.
As Dhoni said after the South Africa win, India have invested too much effort into this core set of players over the past few years to not have them ready to fire come the World Cup. The players have responded superbly in the first two big ones, and have earned themselves a more relaxed setting for the remainder of their group engagements.

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