MELBOURNE (TIP): Mahendra Singh Dhoni made his first media appearance since quitting the Test captaincy a fortnight ago. The occasion was the unveiling of India’s new ODI jersey for the World Cup, which the team will also be wearing during the tri-series.
Looking refreshed after a break of over a week and the eventful Test series behind him, the limited overs skipper was back to his calm, controlled self, answering queries with guarded optimism.
Obviously the question uppermost on everybody’s mind was about the mood in the Indian camp after the jersey changed from white to blue, with Dhoni back at the helm.
In reply, Dhoni launched into a monologue: “There are very few people who get the opportunity to represent the country in any game. We feel so blessed. It is such an honour and a matter of pride,” he said.
He then paused for breath, and added, “But yes, in the ODIs Team India has been identified as “Men in Blue’ and it does inspire us to do better once we are in it. That does not mean we do not give our best in Test matches. It is just the ODI format… we are a better team at the moment and hope to do better than what we have been doing for the last couple of years.”
Once that formality was out of the way, obviously, the next question was about India’s chances at the World Cup. Dhoni was asked if the Indian team’s high point would come at the MCG, which will host the World Cup final on March 29. He promptly replied: “The triumph at Wankhede four years ago was in familiar, home conditions. Here the conditions are very different. There are many factors that will determine who wins the World Cup. I think most of the top teams are playing good cricket right now. So it will all depend on who plays better on a given day.” It was obvious Dhoni was not promising the moon to the Indian fans. He clearly wants to keep the pressure of being the defending champions and one of the World Cup favourites off the team’s shoulders, especially in the light of the recent Test series loss and the tough conditions they will encounter during the World Cup both here and in New Zealand.
Dhoni believes that the tri-series would give the think-tank the opportunity to gauge the form and fitness of the players in the mix and said, “We hope to get our combination right before the World Cup. Many players were sitting idle till now and the tri-series will give them and the others the chance to get into the ODI groove.”
At the unveiling of India’s new jersey, standing on the podium to Dhoin’s right was Test captain and ODI deputy, Virat Kohli. Typically, he looked a bit too serious for the occasion, seeming all ready to take the battle to the rival camp.
He forthrightly said, “It would be great to win the World Cup back-to-back. We have a plan in place and we have a vision. We will be working hard over the next two months to fulfill that goal. It would be such a great milestone for the Men in Blue to be on top of the world again.”
Kohli said that he was confident of taking his Test form into the tri-series and into the World Cup. “I have really enjoyed the conditions here and hopefully we will get similar wickets in NZ too. I hope to continue my good run and help the team achieve its goal.”
Standing next to him was Ajinkya Rahane, another batsman who did exceedingly well in the Test series. Rahane said he was hopeful of providing solidity to the batting line-up in the ODIs too.
“I have no issues with the format. I think I can contribute to the team’s cause as I like playing in these conditions. It is good that we have got used to the pitches here and can carry our form into the ODIs.”
Besides Dhoni, Kohli and Rahane, Ravichandran Ashwin, Rohit Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja, Umesh Yadav and Shikhar Dhawan were on the podium.