There was a common reply from many older cricketers when asked for their likely whereabouts at night; "Nearest bar, nearest restaurant." While times might have changed, the modern cricketer is still a creature of habit. That's why the Indian players won't want to change their successful routines,
despite the long lead-up to the highly anticipated semis clash against Pakistan.
Rather than being purely a superstition, there's a good reason for cricketers maintaining a strict routine in preparation for each match. Preparation is about peace of mind.
If a player believes he's done everything possible to be properly prepared, he walks onto the field of play with his mind clear to concentrate on performing.
Savour Oz victory
The good news about having a long gap between their stirring quarterfinal win and a demanding semifinal is it gives the Indian players time to savour the victory over Australia. There's no use busting a gut to win if you don't enjoy it. Celebration of a victory is important because it enhances team spirit and also makes the players aware of the joys of winning. This encourages them to want more. However, the secret is to savour the win but not to dwell on it for so long that you're not ready for the next challenge. India are indeed fortunate to have a laid-back skipper like MS Dhoni, who gives the impression of being relaxed, but also has the respect of his players.
Dhoni has the perfect captain's temperament. He doesn't get too high when things go well and he's not down in the dumps when matters don't go according to plan. A captain has to even out his emotions because the players "catch his drift" very quickly and they tend to follow the skipper's moods. Another key for India will be to not get caught up in the hype of an India-Pak clash. This is easier said than done with the contest meaning so much to the people.
If anybody can treat the meeting in Mohali as just another match, it is Dhoni. The Indian players are fortunate to have such a leader and he'll help the team keep things in perspective.
Cat on a hot tin roof
Pakistan are not so lucky because, one, it means so much to them to beat India and, two, they have a leader in Shahid Afridi who will still be "hyper" despite playing hundreds of matches.
This gives India a huge advantage. The most important thing for a player in the lead-up to a big match is to get a good night's sleep. The last thing you want to do is toss and turn all night, thinking about the match.
That's why some older players preferred the "nearest bar, nearest restaurant" preparation! However, it all boils down to what works for an individual and the main thing to remember is, the only runs and wickets that count are those on the day.