The Telegraph
Sunday , April 6 , 2014
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India chase a first; SL have a point to prove

Dhaka: Does anyone know how Pele prepared on June 20, 1970, a day before he won his third World Cup, in Mexico?

Many would shout back ‘How does it matter? He was Pele!”

True, it doesn’t. It didn’t matter for Mahendra Singh Dhoni as well on Saturday, the day before he leads the Indian team in the World T20 final against Sri Lanka.

Before all you Pele admirers and others who swear by logic in every aspect of life prepare your feet for an almighty kick to such a comparison, please have the patience to hear out.

The intension was never to compare Pele and Dhoni. There can be none actually, not just because there’s huge difference in the size of the ball that Pele used to kick and the one that Dhoni catches, it’s also because football and cricket are like two parallel lines which would never meet.

But one guesses that sleeves will not be rolled up if it is said that both are champions of their respective fields. So there can be a comparison between what Pele felt on the eve of what was his third World Cup triumph and what was going through Dhoni’s mind before he takes the field in his endeavour to win his third World title after the 2007 World T20 and 2011 ODI World Cup victories.

For those who are assuming that the India captain batted for hours at the nets, you are as far from the reality as Brazil is from India. All Dhoni did on Saturday, at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium, here, was play a game of soccer for about 90 minutes (just a coincidence). That was Dhoni’s, and the Indian team’s, preparation for the big match on Sunday.

We don’t know what Pele did on that day. But just like it doesn’t matter how the legendary footballer prepared before such an important day, it doesn’t make sense to analyse whether what Dhoni did was right or wrong. Champions have the license to jump the ordinary tracks of life and walk on a different path which posterity may follow.

Some may point out that Dhoni has never been worried about numbers and records.

So is he really bothered whether it’s a World Cup final or a BCCI Corporate Trophy match? Maybe that’s correct, maybe he isn’t losing sleep over the World T20 final. But at the same time, it is to be remembered that Dhoni, by his own admission, prefers keeping his emotions to himself. So can we really know what exactly was going on his mind on Saturday?

Willingly or unwillingly, Dhoni will become the first captain to win three World titles and move ahead of Australian Ricky Ponting and West Indies’ Clive Lloyd who led their respective teams to two World Cup wins, if India are triumph on Sunday night.

Dhoni will also be the proud owner of three ICC limited-overs titles simultaneously if his team is victorious. Apart from the 2011 World Cup, Dhoni was the winning captain of the 2013 Champions Trophy as well.

Sunday’s game has other material aspects to it. Will Virat Kohli be the hero of the final? Will Ravichandran Ashwin’s doosras fool Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara? Will Ajinkya Rahane and Mohit Sharma be retained or will Shikhar Dhawan and Mohammed Shami will return? Can Sri Lanka finally win a World meet final after four failures in seven years?

But let’s keep this preview limited to Dhoni. The man deserves every bit of it. The weather forecast for Dhaka says there are chances of thundershowers on Sunday afternoon. Monday’s the reserve day for the final. Now don’t say that Dhoni needed to practice with an umbrella to prepare for that.


India (likely): Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane/ Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Amit Mishra, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami/ Mohit Sharma.

Sri Lanka (likely): Kusal Perera, Tillekaratne Dilshan, Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara, Lahiru Thirimanne, Angelo Mathews, Thisara Perera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Sachithra Senanayake, Lasith Malinga, Rangana Herath

Umpires: Ian Gould and Richard Kettleborough. TV: Rod Tucker.

Match Referee: David Boon

Match starts 6.30 pm (IST)