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Serious business

Mahendra Singh Dhoni is confident of handling pressure as India sweat it out for more than three hours, writes Atreyo Mukhopadhyay. Beyond the boundary

cricket Updated: Feb 11, 2011 01:07 IST
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay

Mahendra Singh Dhoni took over as captain in 2007 when not everything was going right, but since then the team has turned around in style. From leading India to the top of the Test rankings to helping the team become a contender in this World Cup, Dhoni is faced with his biggest assignment as captain.

The extra responsibility is unmistakable but Dhoni is dealing with it differently. "It's a good headache to have," he said on Thursday. "It is an added responsibility, but there is no point getting weighed down by the pressure. India are always expected to do well and it's not possible to be in a position where there is no pressure on us. At the same time, we are experienced players and have got used to it."

For a player who shot to fame six years ago with a blistering century against Pakistan in an ODI in Visakhapatnam, Dhoni has come a long way. He realises how important a portfolio he holds and puts it in perspective. "We are expected to win each time we play in India but this isn't the final frontier for us. There is always going to be hype and this is a big event, but we are not going to be bogged down."

Dhoni, after a full three hours of training session, also spoke about the pragmatic part of the job. "It's important to have the right strategy in place and a Plan B in place. Things will not always go your way and that's when you might come under pressure. It's crucial to plan well... As long as you do that, the result will come, more often than not."

Memories of his first World Cup, in 2007, and one of the most traumatic for India are still fresh. "It took us about a month to come out of it. I don't think we put it behind us before the trip to Bangladesh (after the World Cup). Not that we had a bad side but whatever the reason maybe, things didn't go our way."

Dhoni is now looking forward to six weeks of hard work. "Irrespective of the format we have, it's going to be a tough journey from the start."

Talking about the journey, it started at the Chinnaswamy Stadium with a rigorous training session in the morning. Dhoni didn't have proper net session but was in a murderous mood for the brief time while facing bowlers at the centre of the turf at the National Cricket Academy. The ball travelled a long way each time it found the meat of the bat, and the skipper, like his team, would want the same to happen once the event starts on February 19.

Kirsten peppers Pathan with short ones
The team slogged out at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore on Thursday, after a light first day. The top order spent a long time at the nets, starting from Sachin Tendulkar to Suresh Raina.

The standout feature of the session, however, was coach Gary Kirsten singling out Yusuf Pathan, who had an extended bout against some short-pitched bowling from a short distance.

Kirsten worked his right shoulder overtime, banging the ball just short of good length, dragging it further back many a time.

Pathan was also lured in to some full deliveries, only to readjust himself for the shorter stuff immediately thereafter. He rocked back to play the ball down a few times, fell over trying to duck on certain occasions and by and large, got a lesson in what he is not used to.

Who's that man?
There was a stranger at the Indian team's practice session. Sporting the new red practice T-shirt of the team and in blue denims, he is Mike Horn - the man who'll get Mahi's men psychologically prepared for the big event.

But the South African is not new to Indian cricket. Horn was with the team during last year's India-South Africa Test in Kolkata. The team did benefit from his company, as it won that must-win match.

Horn doesn't talk about cricket but speaks on overcoming tough situations how to face challenges.