Coming into the game, he was the only batsman from his team who was under pressure. By his standards, Mahendra Singh Dhoni had had a poor World Cup with the bat. Sanjjeev K Samyal reports.
Coming into the game, he was the only batsman from his team who was under pressure. By his standards, Mahendra Singh Dhoni had had a poor World Cup with the bat.
Hence, when he walked out to bat at the most crucial stage of the Indian innings, at the fall of Virat Kohli on 114 for 3 in 21.4 overs, it was a very bold statement from someone not in good nick.
Dhoni's success has been based on taking the bull by the horns, and in the end it was only fitting that when his team made history he led them from the front.
At the Wankhede Stadium on Saturday, the Indian captain lived up to his reputation as one of the greats of the game, a true big match player, with an innings of great maturity at the grandest stage. Dhoni had the depth in his batting armoury to do it even if he failed, but he knew personally that it would have taken away something from the epic victory.
Though there had been a good recovery by Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli, it was anybody's game when Dhoni arrived at the crease. The Indian skipper went on to dismantle the Sri Lankan bowling step by step to take the game away from Muralitharan & Co., powering India to their biggest one-day triumph in 28 years.
It was only natural to feel the pressure, but if he was indeed feeling the heat, there were no signs. He has always emphasised the need for the captain to show the way when the going gets tough and there was not a better example than his brilliant effort in the final.
Dhoni had aggregated just 162 runs coming into the game and there were a few eyebrows raised when he walked inahead of the in-form Yuvraj Singh. In a few overs, the intention was clear. Apart from having a left-right combination with Gautam Gambhir, at that moment Lanka's ace spinner Muralitharan was operating and, by cricketing logic, he did not want to expose the lynchpin of his batting, Yuvraj, straight up against the offie.
He was better equipped to play Muralitharan, having kept wicket to him for three seasons at Chennai Super Kings in the Indian Premier League and having batted against him at the nets.
Given the weight of expectations, no other team might have faced such pressure. All along the Indian captain said, he saw the pressure as a chance to create an opportunity.