All the members of the Indian team are fit for World Cup semi-final clash against Pakistan, according to captain MS Dhoni who on Tuesday strongly urged his teammates not to get distracted by the hype surrounding the high-voltage clash and just focus on the game.
Dhoni said Indo-Pak cricket matches tend to generate such media hype and it was important for the players not to get sucked into the frenzy and lose focus of the task at hand.“Well, we know the kind of hype media India-Pakistan matches generate. We are not getting involved in all this. We need to know what we are expected to do and focus on that,” Dhoni said at the pre-match media conference in Mohali.
“All this is part of cricket and we have to accept it. But the key is not to get involved. We will have the biggest distinguished guests (referring to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan PM Yousuf Raza Gilani) to see the match, we have to be at our best,” Dhoni said.
Asked whether the excessive hype would affect the Indians who are playing at home, the Indian skipper said, “It is not really affecting us. We all know it is a big tournament and we have prepared a lot. Our preparations have been the same like what we have done in the past few days.”
Dhoni was not unduly worried about his batting form and reckoned that he had just not got opportunities to score big though he has been striking the ball well.
Asked specifically if pressure of captaincy was taking a toll on his batting, Dhoni responded: “It is only a cricketing aspect, nothing to do with form. I have been batting quite well. Sometimes the situations are not great to play flamboyant cricket. In the Bangladesh match, such a situation was there but I didn’t get to bat.”
“If you are batting at No 5, 6, or 7, you don’t get to bat much if the top order scores. I think the last game (against Australia) was ideal but it went straight to a fielder. It does not go your way always. Form has not been a worry,” he added.
Asked whether all the players in the squad were fit, Dhoni said “as of now, everybody seem to be fit. Hopefully they will be fit.”
On whether this was his biggest match as captain, Dhoni said he did not believe in comparisons.
“In a cricketer’s life there will be many instances, this is no doubt an important match. After some time you forget. I have forgotten how we were feeling before the semi-final and final in 2007. Three years down the line, every game is different.”
“At the end of the day, it remains a 50 overs game, you have to be at your best. You have to maintain the intensity for 100 overs to win the game,” the Indian skipper said.
Dhoni admitted that the presence of the Prime Ministers of both India and Pakistan and cricket being used as a tool for politics could serve as distraction.
“That will be a distraction if I think of how we can help in bringing about a political change. I have been given job to lead the side and I have to do that to the best of my ability,” he said.
The Indian captain said one team had to lose in the end and fans have to take the result of the match in the right spirit.
“Somebody has to lose, irrespective of all the political talk and cricketing hype. At the end of 30th March, one team loses. It does not happen in cricket along, it happens in all sports,” Dhoni pointed out.
“The good thing is we are all unaware of what is happening. Not watching the television is helping. It’s a honour to lead the side. If you take it as a pressure job, you will find yourself in a pressure cooker,” he said.
On the Pakistan team, Dhoni said they have a good bowling attack with their seamers and spinners doing a good job in the tournament.
“They have a good bowling attack. Their seamers and spinners are doing a good job, the part-timers are also doing well. In sub-continental conditions, these players play a role. All-rounders like Abdul Razzak and (Shahid) Afridi give them the liberty to play extra bowlers,” he said.
On the Mohali track, the Indian captain said he could not comment on the wicket as he has not seen the track yet.
“Not seen the wicket, so I can’t comment. In Mohali, most of the time it is in favour of batsmen,” Dhoni said.
Dhoni also said that his Pakistan counterpart Afridi has been bowling really well in the tournament.
“He has been bowling really well and has been the pick of their bowlers…But irrespective of the bowler, we have to treat the ball on merit and respect the good deliveries, he said.