'It should be exciting right from start'

'It should be exciting right from start'

World Cup: Process and preparation important, says Indian captain Dhoni

'It should be exciting right from start'

M S Dhoni addresses the media in Bangalore on Thursday. DH PHOTO

Despite being not unaccustomed to the pressures of playing at home, the burden of expectations this time is enormous. Sometimes, ‘all the best’ and ‘good luck’ can begin to grate, but if Mahendra Singh Dhoni is annoyed, then he -- like his team -- is doing an exceptional job of concealing it.

In his first official interaction as the countdown to the World Cup assumes single-digit status, Dhoni was his composed, collected self, oozing confidence but refusing to take anything for granted.

“It is very important to have the right strategy and be ready with a Plan B or C if needed,” India’s Captain Cool said on Thursday morning. “In the sub-continent, you need to have a few plans up your sleeve because original plans can come unstuck during games. At the same time, we are not taking any added pressure because if you take care of the small steps, you will get the desired results.”

This is almost certainly Sachin Tendulkar’s last World Cup, and most definitely coach Gary Kirsten’s last assignment with the Indian team. “The feel is the same, irrespective of where you are positioned when it comes to some players or the coach,” Dhoni observed, sagely. “What is important is for the team to concentrate on the process and the preparation than thinking about other things. One of the good things with the Indian team is that there are plenty of issues that always surround it, but we are quite good at distancing ourselves from all the issues and concentrating on the process and preparation.”

 The ‘street-smartness’ of Praveen Kumar, Dhoni pointed out, was a factor India could have done with during the quadrennial bash. “It is unfortunate that Praveen has to miss the World Cup. He has featured consistently in the one-day squad and done very well for us,” the skipper acknowledged. “It is unfortunate, but you can’t really guard against injuries to players. It is a big stage; not often are you a part of the World Cup when the event is in your country. He will miss it and we will also miss him, because he is a street-smart cricketer.”

“It is difficult to form the perfect schedule where everyone will be happy,” replied Dhoni when asked if he was happy with the format and the duration of the 43-day tournament. “Depending on your point of view, it will be considered either too long or too short. I am quite happy with the schedule; it gives players an opportunity to rest, time to treat small niggles and be at least 80 or 90 percent fit and play all the games.”

The general perception is that the tournament will spring to life only at the quarterfinal stage when, after 42 league matches, the men will be separated from the boys. “I think it will be interesting right from the start,” Dhoni remarked, begging to differ. “People consider some of the games as boring, but as you saw in the last World Cup, it was the ‘boring’ games that took out the whole excitement from the tournament. Keep your eyes open for them.”

The reference, of course, was to Bangladesh putting India out of the tournament in the first phase itself with a sensational victory in the opener for both teams. This time around, Bangladesh are again India’s first opponents, but in their own backyard which makes them doubly dangerous. “It is a fresh start and we need to do well is all that I will say,” the skipper said, coyly.

Dhoni also disagreed with suggestions that the battle for top honours would largely be between the sub-continental teams. “You will see most of the teams doing really well, it will be a tough competition,” he pointed out. “It will be exciting for the spectators.”