Adelaide: Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni said "a bit of pressure was off" the defending champions' shoulders after they started their campaign in the cricket World Cup with a 76-run win over arch-rivals Pakistan.
The match at Adelaide Oval was seen as one of the most anticipated in the tournament. "It's a bit of a pressure off since the hype and attraction is like that of a five-star hotel preparation where there is a lot of dressing on the top," a smiling Dhoni told reporters at the post-match press conference.
Dhoni was at his pragmatic best after winning the first international match in two and half months and urged people not to differentiate success at home and abroad. "At times, we try to give too much importance to Test series that we play outside India or tri-nation or a bilateral outside the country. I feel all of them are the same. We should be proud of winning at home and we should try to win outside also. There should not be any demarcation as to okay he has got a century, but he has to score in overseas conditions. So there's no need to just add a but which actually adds pressure on the youngsters," the skipper said after leading his team to win.
He elaborated, "When these youngsters score centuries in India, they get complimented but there's always a but that follows and they say 'but he has to score'. We all know we need to score outside the sub-continent. It is a challenge for all of us, but it's not like every time whenever you get a compliment it's followed by but," Dhoni said taking at the dig at the critics. He showed humility when asked about the 6-0 record against Pakistan in World Cup.
"Well, 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. "It's not something that will stay until the world exists. No point in really thinking about it. As far as the World Cup record is concerned, we are definitely proud of it, but it will be broken at some point of time, skipper said in a philosophical tone."
Dhoni, in fact, noted that India's overall ODI record against Pakistan is still not great (72-51 in Pakistan's favour). "Yes, we are proud of the fact that we have done it again, but if you just see the India-Pakistan stats, you know we are way behind. They have really dominated us (over years). I feel definitely World Cup is something that we can, to some extent, be proud of but overall you have to see, they are a fantastic side.
"Actually, they don't have the kind of players that they had but still if you see from a talent point, they've got good fast bowlers. I feel their strength used to be all-rounders. They had players like Abdul Razzaq and all but they don't have it now, so they don't have the luxury. "Again, they have to go in with three-two combination, and if you don't really have a seamer all-rounder, it actually affects the composition of the side. All in all, they are a fantastic side," Dhoni said.
Asked how did he keep the morale of the team high after a string of losses in Tests and ODIs Down Under, Dhoni was quick in his reply. "Well, that's really the job of the leader. What we wanted to do from a team management's point of view was to keep the morale of the dressing room high. It is very crucial because if the morale is down, then it becomes more difficult to come back. When everyone is smiling even while going through a lot of difficulties and problems, if you turn up every day to improve yourself as a cricketer, then you know the results will follow."
Self belief is the key for the Indian captain. "I think it's the belief and trust that we have in each other. At times we should not forget, it's a competitive sport. We represent our country. We want to do well. At times, the condition favours other teams more than it favours us. You have to accept all of that. What's very important is to have that belief and that magic wand actually is the support staff and the 15 players' thinking irrespective of what others think.
"If we are moving in one direction and we are together, there are more chances of us making a strong comeback." Quizzed how important was it to win in the manner that they did, Dhoni said, "Well, I think winning was important to start off because we have not won a lot of games (of late) and Afghanistan was the only one game that we had won."
"Once you start thinking about all these things, you get caught up with a lot of thoughts, so what was important was to not think about the past. It's something that we will keep getting flashes, but it was important not to get entangled with these thoughts, think more about the process, what needs to be done, but ultimately what will really matter is the present," Dhoni said. "At times what we have seen is you have pressure of expectation and the burden of your own performance that you want to do."
Dhoni complimented centurion Virat Kohli for anchoring the innings. "He really batted well considering that the wicket wasn't initially easy to bat on and there was variable bounce. The best part was that he and Shikhar rotated the strike really well and forced the bowlers to bowl in areas which they don't like," he said.
Dhoni felt that the 10-day break after tri-series did re-energise the team. "I think it's a mix of everything. Again, I personally feel the 8-10 day break that we had, that also helped us a lot. Everybody went off and did their respective things and then we came back, and you can use it in a way to say, okay, let's divide this whole tour into two tournaments, like first the test matches and the Tri-Series, and then you break and you say, okay, the World Cup is a fresh start for us.
"I felt that was something that we managed really well. As I said, the morale of the team was good, though the results were not in our favor. We knew we have showed that in flashes that a few of the batsmen have batted well, a few times the bowlers have bowled better, but it was important for us to do that as a team, and this was one game where we did that," he said.
Dhoni didn't give a direct reply about whether 300 was a total that put pressure on Pakistan. "It's difficult to say. The reason being in wickets like these what we have seen is, if you have a partnership going, it becomes quite hard to contain. Most of the teams are just bowling back of the length and asking the batsmen to clear the boundaries, and irrespective of how good batsman you are, that's one strategy that almost all the teams have deployed, and it is working. But we'll have to see.
"You know, in some games you'll see somebody really middling the shots, and if it goes outside the boundary, then they'll have to fall back to their other plan of bowling yorkers and everything. But as far as the tournament is concerned, so far that's a strategy that has been working, and most of the teams are falling for that."