Mahendra Singh Dhoni is a five-star leader says Adam Hollioake © Getty Images
Mahendra Singh Dhoni is a five-star leader says Adam Hollioake © Getty Images

 

By Adam Hollioake

 

Has there ever been a bigger single celebration in cricket history? I don’t think so. Why is this win, by this great Indian side, so huge? The reasons are many.

 

Firstly, and most importantly India were playing at home and history says that no home team has ever won the World Cup.

 

I can tell you from personal experience that the pressures that are involved playing a World Cup at home are immeasurable. I played the fateful 1999 World Cup in London, and the distractions for us were immense. To be honest, too much for us to deal with.

 

Let’s put things in perspective. England is a cricketing giant, but it can’t claim to have a fraction of the attention that the Indian cricket team enjoys. First the population – 50 odd million versus over a billion. Secondly, cricket is a national sport in India, whilst England will always have football as it No 1 game. Thirdly, the increased media attention and commitments required by players these days.

 

Add all these things together and you will appreciate the enormity of India’s triumph. This Indian team has not only managed to cope with pressure but, in fact, appears to enjoy it! I have had a good think about this and it came down to two key reasons:

 

Great players- There are several players that are or are in the process of becoming great players. Obviously there is Sachin Tendulkar, but Virender Sehwag, Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh, Yuvraj Singh and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, are on their way as well in the one-day arena. Having so many great players settles the rest of the team. And often, one of these great players puts his hand up to get the team across the line.

 

Great players don’t feel pressure as much as normal players. They deal with pressure every day just by being great, so something like a big game doesn’t seem as extreme to them. If you work in a morgue you will not be as shocked to see a dead person out in the street as an accountant. You will still be shocked, but you are far better equipped to deal with it.

 

In the final, when Sachin Tendulkar was at the crease, there was an air of complete calmness about him compared to everyone else. Even he must be feeling the occasion, but his senses might have become dull from the constant pressure every time he goes to play a game – such is the weight of expectations on him.

 

Therefore the big occasion never seems so big to him. On top of this you have the others such as Dhoni, Yuvraj, Zaheer etc who enjoy bigger stardom in their country than other great players from other countries. I think people in India would be shocked to hear that even our biggest player Alec Stewart (in his playing days) could easily have walked down a street in London without being recognized by the majority!

 

Simply the best players- The Indian side, along with Sri Lanka and Pakistan, had by far and away the best team for the conditions. All three sides had good spinners who could turn the ball both ways. Besides, the three sides had a number of destructive batsmen. And, lastly, they all had decent quick bowlers. The Indian side also fielded like no other Asian side I have ever seen. They were more like an Australian side or the West Indies from the ’70s.

 

So, how does India produce so many great players these days? I’m not only a big believer in cycles, but also in the system that the players are raised in. Indian players are afforded superstardom before they have really had a chance to earn it. Therefore, the players who can’t handle it are weeded out very quickly and only the strong survive.

 

What are the reasons for the improvement in the fielding? Well, coaching techniques and foreign coaches make techniques and training routines more available. Secondly, the standard of outfields and facilities have improved vastly, allowing for fielders to practice diving and other skills that involve being on the floor. In days gone by, India had dustbowl outfields that didn’t encourage any sort of diving, I am sure we all have memories in our mind of sub continent players running to get to a ball and sticking a leg out as opposed to diving. Gone are those days and it would be fair to say that India’s fielding led by Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh was outstanding by any standards!

 

MS Dhoni

 

There was an air of inevitability about the result, once Dhoni got to about 10. He marched to the crease and proceeded to knock the ball firmly and confidently into the gaps. He looked a man in complete charge, and for me showed how a true superstar reacts under pressure. He had been in ordinary form leading into this game, and when he strode to the crease his early dismissal would have made it very difficult to win. He is a true five-star leader. A five-star leader never takes credit for the wins, but is there to take the responsibility for the losses. He puts the rest of the team first, but is there to help the team when most needed. He has an air of calm that every captain strives for, but only very few actually achieve. Compare instead, Sreesanth, Sehwag, Harbhajan, Zaheer or, even Tendulkar at rare times. They all show their emotions and gesticulate at their team mates at times.

 

Sachin Tendulkar

 

What can be said of this great cricketer that already hasn’t been said! He is quite simply unbelievable. You forget that he is approaching 40. Such is his form, that you forget that he has carried the weight of the nation for over 20 years. I played against Tendulkar when he was a kid (before his international days), and even then he looked destined for greatness. He just had that presence!

 

It will be interesting to see what decision he makes regarding his immediate playing future. I feel the most obvious decision would be to retire from 20/20 and 50-over cricket and carry on with Test cricket, and retire after getting his 100th hundred. I think it is unlikely that it will ever happen again and would be a wonderful record to have. That said, Tendulkar isn’t about himself and may just call it a day.

 

I am sure the celebrations will continue long and hard for weeks to come and who could hold it against a nation that loves its cricket as much as India. They have shown time and time again that their passion for the game is unrivalled by every other country in the world. India are deserving winners, indeed!

 

(Adam Hollioake is an ex-captain of the England One-Day cricket team. He led Surrey CCC to an unprecedented nine trophies in seven years of captaincy and was named Wisden Cricketer of the year in 2003. You can follow his blogs at adamhollioake.com or follow him on twitter at twitter.com/adamhollioake)