Indian cricket was going through one of its lowest phases when Mahendra Singh Dhoni led the team to England for the ICC Champions Trophy. Critics had written the team off, and the spot-fixing allegations and questions over Dhoni’s business interests only made matters worse.
Even though BCCI had barred players from talking to the media about the burning issues, it was no secret that it was definitely at the back of their minds.
But Dhoni was clear about how he wanted things to pan out.
Addressing his first press conference on reaching England, he said that he wanted to keep the team away from the controversies and if players in the team are to be believed, he did a fantastic job.
One of the senior players told Mail Today that Dhoni, along with the management, ensured that the nerves of the youngsters were calmed to ensure that their focus didn’t shift away from the task at hand.
“While it all seems hunky-dory now, the first few days in England were really tough. We tried our best to focus on the upcoming tournament, but we are also human and would keep thinking about the mess subconsciously. This is where Dhoni and the management really helped. While Dhoni ensured that we weren’t bothered by the media, there would be meetings where the manager and other senior individuals would motivate us and talk about cricketing activities. I feel it was very important as one bad move prior to the tournament could have hampered our campaign,” the player said.
“The results of all the team bonding exercises and bonhomie among the players was pretty evident by the time the tournament started. It is often said that the mood inside the dressing room is reflected on the field and our performance shut everyone up. Once we won the Champions Trophy, things were much easier going into the tri-series in the West Indies as we were completely in the zone by then and whatever happened prior to the Champions Trophy wasn’t even in the back of our minds. Most importantly, we were on a roll.”
A youngster who has come of age and looks to have cemented his place in the team after strong performances in England and the Caribbean feels that while Dhoni protected the younger players like an elder brother in England, his decision to stay with the team despite getting injured in the West Indies sent out the right signal to the players.
“Even as the media was waiting to pounce on us with questions on the fixing controversy, Dhoni protected us and ensured that we didn’t lose focus for a second. He would be more interested in discussing our roles in the team and how we needed to go about in the tournament in tough conditions. Also, he made us believe that one failure wouldn’t see us losing our place in the team. The atmosphere in the camp was fantastic,” he told Mail Today.
“Then, when he decided to stay back in the West Indies even after getting injured, it showed how much he cared for the team. It obviously matters to have someone as experienced as him sitting in the dressing room and sharing tips with us. His presence in itself worked as a boost. He guided us perfectly and it was only poetic justice that he won us the final.”