Melbourne: A day before their quarterfinal clash against Sri Lanka in Sydney, South Africa did not practice.
This was a huge leap for a team that is seen to be under pressure to perform at the big stage, despite the perennial tag of favorites pinned on them.
Perhaps they were taking a leaf out of MS Dhoni’s books, and hoping the same success mantra rubs off onto them as well.
It is a strategy that the Indian team management has put to good effect.
They don’t bother more than they ought to, certainly not a long tour as this one. They have been on-tour in Australia (and New Zealand) for nearly 120 days now.
In fact if they do get across the quarter-final and make it to the semis of the 2015 ODI World Cup, they will complete four months Down Under.
How has team India stayed fresh, enough to turn their fortunes around in this tournament?
“It is down to each individual how they want to keep fresh, and how they switch off from cricket on such a long tour. From the beginning itself, we had discussed that we will see this long trip as two tours, divided into the Australian tour and the World Cup. The 8-10 days of break in between really helped us a lot,” said Dhoni during one of the press conferences in the group stage, as India romped to six consecutive wins.
It has reflected off the Indian team ever since they landed here, or in fact, ever since Dhoni did.
He came late, owing to a finger injury, and only played the second Test in Brisbane first up. He did only what was needed, not batting or keeping in practice and not pushing himself until he needed to.
The first few days on-tour he only bowled in the nets. Then came the shock announcement of Test retirement after the Boxing Day Test had ended in a draw, and the series was lost.
While the Indian skipper has never broken his silence on the matter, the simple BCCI media release had stated that he had “given up Test cricket to concentrate on limited-overs cricket and prepare for the upcoming World Cup”.
Staying true to his nature, he stayed on with the team until the tri-series started, even though appearing in the practice sessions as a part of the squad. Then he calmly re-took the reins of the side once the ODI leg began. That small amount of rest after he retired was perhaps enough to rejuvenate the Indian captain, enough to affect the turn-around his team has experienced.
It is perhaps reflected most in the manner the Indian bowlers have performed. They are the only attack to have taken sixty wickets in their six group matches, bowling out all of their oppositions.
That is once more than New Zealand and South Africa each, and twice more than Australia have managed, yet all of these teams had more favoured attacks before the tournament began.
The secret here is the little trip Dhoni took with his bowlers on the outskirts of Adelaide just before the warm-up matches began.