World Cup 2015: Dhoni’s true legacy is the way India handle pressure

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Cricket

Virat Kohli got bowled round his legs by an off-spinner Sikander Raza. It was a poor ball, wide outside the leg-stump and the right-hander attempted to sweep it. It hit the gloves and unluckily, went back on to the stumps. Chasing 288 to win, India were reduced to 92-4 and Kohli gave us the look of disbelief that we have come to know so well.

As the commentators love to say, ‘India were in a spot of bother.’ Only this time, the cliche was a perfect fit for the situation. So how did the fans respond to the pressure — did they go quiet? did they murmur nervously? did they even think of defeat?

The answer to all those questions is a simple ‘no.’ Instead, one of the fans put up a sign: ‘Keep calm and trust MS Dhoni.’ And rarely, if ever, has the Indian skipper betrayed that trust. He scored 85 (76 balls, 8 fours, 2 sixes), shepherded Suresh Raina and India through the tough times to their sixth win on the trot.

“Not only me and Raina, even when Virat went in to bat, we felt a bit of pressure. Zimbabwe are a good side, but we were expected to win,” said Dhoni after the game.

But what did he do with the pressure? He soaked it all up and then despite being in the driver’s seat, Zimbabwe succumbed to the situation. Dhoni had once again outlasted the opponent, he had held his breath longer than the opposition, they had to come up for air — even as India cruised to yet another win.

In Dhoni’s words, the pitch was doing a little in the second innings and Zimbabwe’s bowlers exploited the conditions well. But he just didn’t panic. He slowly settled in — 8 off 20 balls, no fours and just singles and a solitary two. He wasn’t in a hurry even though the required run-rate was rising fast.

Raina, at the other end, was clearly feeling the pressure. He started trying to use the crease, the angles, play the big shots. Dhoni backed him to do that but had a quiet word with him in the middle.”Play your shots but don’t try to smash every ball,” said Raina after the game. “Dhoni backed my strength and I just looked to play my shots in the right areas.”

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