There was no chest-beating from India’s players after they beat their fierce rivals Pakistan at the World Cup on Sunday.
While their fans celebrated as though they had won the World Cup, India’s players were more relieved than excited by the 76-run victory.
Until Sunday, the Indians had only won one match — a practice game against Afghanistan — since arriving in Australia in November, and the pressure was starting to mount.
As the team captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni bore the brunt of criticism. More than most, he knew how important it was for India to avoid defeat to Pakistan in their opening World Cup match.
“I felt the guys did really well because a World Cup opening game against Pakistan, it is a high-stake game,” Dhoni told a news conference at Adelaide Oval.
“But at the same time we don’t want to give it too much of an importance because irrespective of whether you’re playing Pakistan or Australia, the games are important.
“You get the same number of points. Your run rate, depending on the margin you win, it’s the same. I feel we try to keep it as normal as possible, and to a lot of extent we were able to do that.”
Dhoni admitted his players had felt flat after losing the four-match test series 2-0 to Australia and then finishing last in the Tri-Series one-day tournament, which also included England.
He said the players spent the 10 days between the end of the series and the start of the World Cup trying to refresh themselves physically and mentally.
Dhoni, who captained India to the World Cup win in 2011, and was named man of the match in the final, said his players were in a much better frame of mind to defend their title.
“Our approach was always positive. The result was not in our favour,” Dhoni said.
“That’s something that’s really beyond our control. There were quite a few areas where we had to improve both in the bowling and the batting department.
“In this game it clicked together. It’s something that you have to do in tournaments like this. You have to be at your best, and I felt today was one game which was to a lot of extent a very complete game for all of us, but still, we can improve.”
Beating Pakistan made it all the more sweeter for Dhoni’s men. The two neighbours have an intense rivalry that goes beyond sport but passions are rarely as high as when they meet on the cricket pitch.
At the World Cup, it has been one-sided with India winning all six of the matches they have played, including the 2011 semi-final.
“The record is good, but it’s something that I don’t want to get into because there will come a time when we will lose, irrespective of whether it happens this World Cup, next World Cup or four World Cups down the line,” Dhoni said.
“We are definitely proud of it, but it will be broken at some point of time.” (Reuters)