CWC Countdown: 12 days to go - Support from outside the rope

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Raising standards: The 12th man can either lift the spirit or take inspiration away by booing their team.

Cricket is a war which is officially fought with 11 legitimate soldiers fielded by each side within the rope of stadiums but sometimes difference can be made by those who are outside the rope.

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 CWC Countdown: 13 days to go – O’Brien storm blows away England

This may include the substitutes or supporting staff but for Sport360 it is the fans who are the real 12th man of a team because they can either lift the spirit or take inspiration away by booing their team.

Different fans react differently to certain occasion considering how the cricket culture is evolving in their country like people of Pakistan, West India and India are really emotional while fans of England, South Africa, Australia or New Zealand would also show their anger but in a different way.

The 2015 World Cup will see colourful 12th man of different teams like England’s Barmy army, India’s Bharat Army while Australia’s 12th man would be most dangerous despite not being physically present – the late Phil Hughes.

Co hosts Australia will have the biggest hunger as a nation to win this World Cup for their 12th man who is no more with them but his memories lives on in hearts and minds.

SPORT360's CRICKET WORLD CUP COUNTDOWN

– 13 days to go: O'Brien storm blows England away
– 14 days to go: Arvinda de Silva in world of his own
– 15 days to go: Australia bamboozle the Namibians
– 16 days to go: New format catches out India, Pakistan
– 17 days to go: Madan Lal’s 17 wickets help India to triumph
– 18 days to go: Dennis delight at first World Cup century
– 19 days to go: Economical Imran Khan of Pakistan
– 20 days to go: Bichel cleans up against England
– 21 days to go: Sachin Tendulkar the runs machine
– 22 days to go: The unwanted record of Nathan Astle
– 23 days to go: Nehra rattles England in South Africa
– 24 days to go: The great Kapil Dev's strike rate for India
– 25 days to go: Australia's Invincibles dominate for eight
– 26 days to go: Glenn McGrath's wicket-taking exploits
– 27 days to go: Zaheer Khan's striking ability
– 28 days to go: Herschelle Gibbs just loves sixes
– 29 days to go: Australia's 29-ball haul destroys India

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MS Dhoni’s hiatus ahead of World Cup will not help India

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Different strokes: Dhoni’s insipid reaction to defeat is in stark contrast to those of captain-in-waiting Kohli.

Mindset makes as much impact on a sporting field as does talent and luck. Form comes and goes. Fortunes desert teams and players at any given time.

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But the one factor that is not affected or moulded by an external force is mindset of a team and its players. Either you fight and simply don’t give up, or you take it as it comes and generally hope for the best. 

It’s amazing how two leaders in the Indian team display such contrasting outlooks. Sample the two most striking comments from Virat Kohli and Mahendra Singh Dhoni after India’s defeats at the end of the Test and tri-series respectively.

“Lock the kitbag. Keep it somewhere you don’t even want to see it. Completely switch off from cricket,” urged Dhoni after India were knocked out of the one-day tri-series. 

Compare this to what Virat had to say after India drew the fourth Test to lose the series 2-0: “I hate losing and that’s the bottom line. We have to be competitive.

"The opposition should respect us. They should not think of us as a bunch of youngsters who can be steamrolled.”

The fact is India failed to win have not won a single game in Australia in the two months they have been there.

They came close on a few occasions but for some reason or the other, couldn’t deliver the knockout punch or simply folded up in spectacular fashion. 

If you take a look at India’s recent away tours, apart from the tour of England, India have failed to impress.

The Lord’s Test win and ODI series triumph in England seem an anomaly.

They didn’t win in the month or so they were in South Africa at the end of 2013, remained winless until February 2014 in New Zealand and are now staring at another fruitless tour. That’s more than five months of drought. 

Such a streak can get to the best of us. Coming up with excuses for another poor day at the office can get tedious and the stresses are beginning to show as far as Dhoni is concerned.

It reached a point where the wicketkeeper batsman decided to quit Test cricket – a decision announced through a brief statement by the Indian board – with one match to go in the Australia-India Test series. 

No wonder we are hearing such statements from Dhoni, including this one right after India got knocked out of the tri-series: “I think from the confidence point of view we are quite good.” 

Now we are all for keeping the morale of the players high, something which Kohli too did after the defeat in the Test series, but sometimes you have to call a spade a spade and not look to beat around the bush.

Dhoni’s emphasis on going away from cricket and switching off completely sounds good but I get a feeling he is trying to impose his thought process on players who might actually need to buckle down and train even harder.

I refuse to believe that the likes of Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Stuart Binny, Suresh Raina and Ambati Rayudu need to take any sort of break from cricket. 

These players have been given the task of defending India’s World Cup title. What they need at the moment is something on the lines of Al Pacino’s unforgettable speech from ‘Any Given Sunday’, not a sales pitch for a summer vacation.

Kohli comes across as a person who simply hates to lose. But Dhoni is beginning to look like a cricketer who has had enough and just wants to get it over with.

Sure Dhoni wants to win but he hasn’t instilled that hatred for defeat, which should be ingrained in every sportsperson’s mind.

The way things are, India don’t look too hot going into the World Cup. Teams like South Africa, Australia and New Zealand look stronger in every department 
and it would be a big surprise if India do manage to retain their crown. 

But cricket will continue irr-espective of what happens at the World Cup and what will make India’s task easier thereafter is the fact that they won’t be touring a top team outside Asia for nearly two years. That will allow captain-in-waiting Kohli to mould the team that he wants.

It means India will not be tested (or embarrassed) for some time and it will allow the side to settle in and enjoy a decent period of success.

What the Indians should concentrate on from now is to bin this talk of processes and taking positives. Winning is all that should matter and when months go by without a victory, the pain should be visible. 

If there is no soul searching after such setbacks, then what is point of it all?

Dhoni, unfortunately, doesn’t have it in him to take the team in that direction.

Kohli will get his chance after the World Cup, whether India win it or not. It’s up to him how he utilises this opportunity.

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Cricket WC Countdown: 13 days to go

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Kevin O’Brien hit the fastest World Cup century to help Ireland to a memorable win over England in 2011.

Kevin O’Brien always had the ability to play big shots but there was question mark over his temperament to play a big knock.

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But the big all-rounder came up with the knock in 2011 world cup which would go down as the best innings of their history and that too against England hitting as many as 13 boundaries and half-a-dozen sixes.

Chasing a stiff target of 328, Ireland had lost half of their batting side for 111 and were all set to cruise to a big victory.

However, there was still a twist left which no one would have predicted and that was the fastest century of world cup history coming down from the bat of an Irishman.

O' Brien went onto score a 50-ball hundred smashing bowlers to all corners of the park both hitting fours and sixes with utmost ease to leave England in disbelief.

Ireland went onto chase successfully making 329 for seven with five balls to spare thanks to 113-run blitz O’Brien off just 63 deliveries as he struck 13 boundaries and six maximums.  

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