India started the World Cup as favourites but it was England skipper Andrew Strauss’s innings in the second game that was a wake-up call.
After amassing 338 at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, the hosts were confident that they had the match in the bag. Strauss belted the India bowlers all over the park to force a tie. Coach Gary Kirsten told his boys that he was happy with the result as it was an alarm bell. “It is a lesson. Don’t panic but don’t repeat the mistakes,” he had said, it is learnt.
Mentors in the team
Then, there was Sachin Tendulkar reminding the batsmen on the importance of assuming responsibility. “It is important that we don’t leave it on others to complete the job. By throwing your bats around we will not achieve anything.”
Zaheer Khan’s exclusive session with the struggling bowlers and inviting them to clarify their doubts; an injured Ashish Nehra giving pep talk to the bowlers during the final, continuously mentoring them… were among the decisive moments on which India’s triumph was built.
“The massive interest around the country had subconsciously entered the players' minds. Everyone looked in the frame of mind that they were going to do it come what may,” a source close to the team told HT while analysing India's victory.
“In the final and semifinals, both Sri Lanka and Pakistan, had younger players, but it was our fielding which was better. Our players’ determination was to the fore,” he said.
Inspirational guru Mike Horn was critical in handling pressure. “He showed how to make the mind strong. He showed videos of how people faced insurmountable challenges; how world records were made. He explained how pain is a mind thing, if you raise the mind then there is no pain.”
Players sought inspiration from the deeds of two greats —Anil Kumble taking the field during the 2002 Antigua Test despite a fractured jaw and VVS Laxman’s knocks in testing situations.
The Australia and Sri Lanka matches were tougher, but it was the semifinal against Pakistan which meant the most. “We had brought Australia down, hence it was just another game for the team. But, one could sense a different kind of feeling ahead of the Pakistan game. Maybe for this battle, even the most docile got charged up,” said the source.
The most poignant moment was when Kirsten addressed the boys in the dressing room for the last time. “You are the world's best team and you have to continue that. The spark is there, don’t let it extinguish.”
Inspiration came from some unlikely sources too, like the group of blind children singing patriotic songs in the dressing room. “They were 9-10-year-olds, the team was moved. Every member felt in a zone and was confident about the team’s success.
“When the chain is strong, such miracles happen. Even weakness becomes a strength. Unshakeable confidence was the key to our success.”