They used to ask who wrote Ian Botham's scripts. I think it's time people asked that question about Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Those who think it's disrespectful to question Dhoni's tactics miss the point: We all want him to lead the side to victory. Just because we disagree with some of his decisions doesn't mean we don't want him to be captain. Conversely, just because we agree with some of his decisions doesn't mean we'd blindly back him on everything.
I thought the decision to play a third seamer in the last two games was the wrong one. Dhoni admitted to making that mistake in the semis and I'm glad he can do that inspite of the intense scrutiny he's put under. Playing Sreesanth ahead of Ashwin was wrong too, but it didn't cost us a win. On another day it might. On the other hand, it was the right thing for Dhoni to bat at 5 with 3 offspinners in the Lankan side. As good as Yuvraj has been, he's never been comfortable against them. The required rate was very much under control and it made a lot of sense to save him for bowlers he could hammer all over the Wankhede. It would've been the right decision even if Dhoni had gotten out.
I think Dhoni understands this, and as long as we're civil about expressing our opinion it's alright. It was nice to see him not take the bait Ravi Shastri dangled in front of him. He knew he hadn't batted well in the World Cup so far and wanted to prove a point to himself. He's a much bigger man than Shastri and all those bitter "experts" will ever be. Let's not talk about how sick it makes us when we see a cricketer endorse a brand right after he's been dismissed. These guys have a much shorter career span than so many of us and we should let them decide their priorities. Question their tactics, but please don't question their motives without concrete evidence because these guys have worked so much harder than any of us to be where they are.
Anyone I talk cricket with knows I did not think India would win this World Cup before the start of the tournament. It wasn't because of the weight of expectations or anything, I just thought a lineup that hadn't played together for the past year or so, out of form middle order batsmen and a bowling attack that sold itself short in its quest for wickets could win three knockout games in a row.
As it turns out, it took the side a while to realise Kohli's place shouldn't be messed around with. The brilliant allround performance of Yuvraj was obviously the biggest boost for the side, one not even his biggest supporters would have expected. Everyone knew he had the ability to pace his innings in ODIs but no one expected him to bowl 10 overs and take 2 wickets almost every game. The bowling was just about good, but Zaheer provided the leadership it desperately needed and Yuvraj took away the headache of the fifth bowler. It is amazing that of the many "experts" on TV & in the media, none of them has picked up on Zaheer's knuckleball. Sometimes it helps to expand your horizons. Kudos to whoever got Zaheer to try that delivery.
The addition of Raina gave the side a leader in the fielding department. It is difficult to quantify the impact of fielding, but if ever there was a case for recognising a player's "intangibles", Raina is a prime example. I remember an incident from the game against Pakistan when a throw came in and Nehra wasn't aware of it. The ball would've hit him but Raina stepped in to take the blow. It's the sort of thing TV cameras never pick up, but the men on the field do. It would be wrong to not touch on his lower order batting in the two knockout games. The team was right in trying Pathan at the start of the World Cup, and it was also right in going back to their finisher when Pathan couldn't deliver. It's not a knock on Pathan, he should be (And I bet he is) proud to be part of a World Cup winning side.
Last but not least, a big Thank You to Gary Kirsten. You have sacrificed over 3 years of family life to turn us into a proper team. You have done it without being overbearing, without going behind the players' backs, and with a lot of dignity even when things didn't go the way India wanted them to. I hope you enjoyed working in our land and achieve great success in whatever project you take up. I wish you would have stayed longer but nothing comes before family and nation. Just don't join the Mumbai Manhooses. They're Evil :)
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