Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who broke the Indian record for most consecutive World Cup wins by a captain, insisted he is only as good as his bowlers.
The win against Ireland at Seddon Park was Dhoni’s ninth consecutive since the 2011 World Cup, and he is now one better than Saurav Ganguly’s streak of eight. The record – a staggering 24 straight wins – belongs to Australia’s Ricky Ponting.
In his post-match TV interview, Dhoni played down his personal achievement, saying: “It’s not about milestones. It about India winning and we want to take this forward. That’s the motivation for us.
“It doesn’t really matter what the record is. Definitely, it’s something that every player will be proud of. The last World Cup was thanks to all the team members and the current team also because it’s always a team effort. At the end of the day, we play a team sport, and everybody needs to enjoy it.”
By bringing on left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja and Ashwin as early as the ninth and 10th over, and then Raina as soon as they took the first wicket in the 15th over, Dhoni said he was reacting more to the situation than experimenting.
“I feel it was not much of an experiment,” he added.
“It was more about adapting to the conditions. I saw the wicket was slightly slower, so I used the extra part-time spinner that we have. And Suresh, whenever he has got a bit of assistance, he has proven himself to be a proper bowler.
“It was good. He also got a proper bowling spell of 10 overs. So I felt it’s not experimenting, it’s more about using the resources that we have.”
When pointed out that the team did not seem to take their rivals lightly, not only by chosing the same playing eleven as the last match, but also by retaining the same intensity, Dhoni said: “We’re highly motivated. If it comes to the points, we have qualified for the next stage, but still, it was a challenge in itself because the traveling issue that we had. A lot of boys didn’t get enough sleep before this game traveling from Perth because of the time we landed.”
William Porterfield insists two of the biggest weaknesses of Ireland – batting against spin bowling and the ability of their own bowling attack – could only be addressed if they get better exposure in international cricket.
Ireland were doing extremely well against India’s pace attack, before floundering against the spinners. And then, defending a target of 260 runs, none of bowlers looked like making any impression on the high-class batting line-up of India as they raced to victory in just 36.5 overs.
Porterfield said: “I think exposure is a big thing. You probably heard me say it a thousand times, but we have played nine ODIs against the top eight teams in the last four years in between World Cups, which is not a lot when you consider a lot of countries are playing 25, 30-plus a year.
“So that’s disappointing from our point of view to not get that experience and get those games under our belts. I think the skill factor is there.”
Porterfield admitted Ireland did slow down when spin was introduced, but said it was part of a plan. However, the plan did not succeed as they kept losing wickets.
“I think we did slow down,” said the captain. “But you have to give a bit of credit to Ashwin and others…they bowled very well.
“We could have put them under a bit more pressure, but we didn’t want to go too hot too soon after losing those couple of wickets.
— peter johnston (@petejohnston79) March 10, 2015
“I think we picked up a bit of momentum coming down to the Powerplay, but every time we did that, we managed to lose a wicket at crucial times. I think their spinners bowled well and we managed to lose those wickets at crucial times which slowed us down.”
Porterfield said the team is looking forward to what is now turning to be a do-or-die match for them against Pakistan in Adelaide on March 15 as far as qualifying to the quarter-finals is concerned.
The issue of reducing the number of competing teams in the 2019 World Cup to 10 from the current 14, has divided the cricketing world.
The pros and cons of such a step has been debated by fans and legends, and former New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming is the latest one to air his views.
It was interesting what Fleming had to say, while taking part in a New Zealand Tourism event held at the set of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy.
When asked which camp he belonged to, Fleming said: “I am in a very interesting camp actually. We focus a lot on the World Cup, but the four years in between are more important.
“To have the associate teams to turn up against the big boys every four years at a World Cup and perform is unrealistic. So, what can be done in that four-year period?
“For me, more than the format of the World Cup, it is more important how we can gain more exposure for the associate teams during these four years. I’d like to see how can India free up some time and play against the associates, or how New Zealand can develop cricket in places like Papua New Guinea and Fiji?”
Shami, the Hadlee fan
After India’s match with Ireland got over, New Zealand’s legendary swing bowler, Sir Richard Hadlee, gave away the man-of-the-match award to Shikhar Dhawan.
As Hadlee was leaving the field, Indian fast bowler Mohammad Shami was seen scampering out of the Indian dressing room with team director Ravi Shastri towards the man called ‘Sultan of Swing’.
Shami cannot speak in English, but spent several minutes with Hadlee, with Shastri acting as the translator. He then took Hadlee’s autograph, and also requested a passing photographer from Indian media to click his picture with the legend.
Kohli spreading terror
There’s no doubt that the recent episode of Virat Kohli abusing a journalist has had an effect on his image.
On Monday, as the team was doing the nets at Seddon Park, there was a group of fans watching them practice.
And one was overheard saying: “Just stay away from Kohli. He might think you are a journalist!”
Former India all-rounder Yuvraj Singh has backed the Indian team to defend its World Cup title but has urged Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s side to save its best cricket for the knockout stages.
India have qualified for the last eight with four wins from as many games. And 2011 World Cup hero Yuvraj feels the men in blue can go for glory this year, even though they are not as experienced as the team he was a part of.
“They have started very well, they just need to sustain the momentum. I think India have a very good chance of winning the World Cup,” said Yuvraj, who will be playing for the MCC in the Emirates T20 tournament in Dubai on March 20 .
“I think the 2011 side was more experienced than this one. We had likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Harbhajan Singh. This side is young but they have it in them to cross the finish line.”
And the player the left-handed batsman feels can make a big impact is Virat Kohli.
“Virat is a special player and it’s hard to find anyone as consistent as him. Scoring 22 hundreds by the age of 26 is a phenomenal achievement. He is the ultimate run-machine and can handle pressure so well,” Yuvraj added.
However, the out-of-favour batsman urged the Indian team to not lose their focus as only performances in the knockouts matter.
“Play positive and reserve your best for the knockout stages. Everyone knows that three good days can win you the World Cup,” he said.
“This side is young but they have it in them to cross the finish line” – Yuvraj
Yuvraj will be teaming up with the likes of former England captain Alastair Cook during the Emirates T20 tournament.
He said: “I am really looking forward to do my best in this tournament. For so many years MCC has been the custodian of the game. They do their best to promote the game at every level. As a cricketer I want join hands with them.
“I have started an initiative called the Yuvraj Singh Center of Excellence which works at the grassroot level. At some stage I would like to work with MCC for these kids from rural parts of India.”
*Yuvraj was speaking on behalf of Sport Arabia Worldwide and EmiratesT20