M.S. Dhoni's ability to remain level-headed, at the height of success or depths of failure, stands out.
“T20 is good enough to spot talent but at the end of the day it is very different when you play 50-overs or the day game. You have to be careful not to be carried away (by T20 performances). It is a very good platform where youngsters are put under pressure and you can see how they react and what type of talent they have got,” said the Chennai Super Kings captain, about the emergence of young talent like Ambati Rayudu, Saurabh Tiwary and Harmeet Singh via the Indian Premier League.
Chennai Super Kings outwitted Mumbai Indians to win the DLF IPL-III title as Dhoni scored over his counterpart Sachin Tendulkar with quick decisions in the decisive phase. CSK refused to be rattled by the sight of Tendulkar opening the batting, nor by Kieron Pollard's assault in the closing stages. Three run-outs, brilliant catches by Suresh Raina and Shadab Jakati snuffed out the home team's hopes at the D.Y. Patil stadium.
The CSK skipper talks about turning points in the final:
On plotting Pollard's dismissal:
It was a gut feeling. At the end of the day, you know big hitters look to hit straight. At times you get the ball right. If they don't get the elevation, that is the height more often than not where the ball goes from. He is not the sort of player comfortable with the sweep shot, so I thought of taking the gamble. I am happy it worked. It was a simple idea. Just that the ball went there.
On Pollard's ability to go for big shots:
Of course the way he was batting and scores runs… he hits those big sixes and take you to victory or gets out. Pollard won't be the one hanging around at the crease, so I was a bit worried. At the end of the day we thought of putting the pressure on other batsman and not letting them change strike, at the same time keep their (asking) run rate mounting.
On Mumbai's decision to send J.P. Duminy ahead of Pollard:
Maybe they tried to push the big hitters down the order so that my left-arm spinner (Jakati) can't really bowl with Duminy at the crease. So it was a move and at times it works. With the kind of hitters they have, promoting Harbhajan Singh and asking Pollard to bat lower… even if they needed 30-odd runs in three overs, we have seen it can be achieved in T20 format. It was one of those days that tactics never really worked for Mumbai.
On Sachin Tendulkar's decision to play despite a hand injury:
I was 100 per cent sure he would play the game unless the injury is very bad. He has done it in the past and is a very brave character. He has gone through worst injuries and come back strongly. I always knew reaching the final and not playing would be a big blow.
On CSK bowling combinations in IPL-III:
As a team we struggled with our domestic seam bowlers. So we decided that our strength was spinners. We have Muralitharan and Jakati. Ashwin was one of the bowlers who has done really well throughout the tournament. He has done the work of a seamer very well, getting wickets as well as keeping the opponents quiet in the first six overs. So we said okay, it may not sound like the right combination, it worked for us. We played our five best bowlers.
On Murali Vijay coming off the bench and performing:
Vijay was not playing his normal shots. I told him, you are a good timer of the ball and have to be in good position to play the shots. So for the first one or two weeks he played in the one or two games and used time in the nets. When he came back, he was a completely different batsman, well balanced and very good feet position.
On the confidence shown in Ashwin:
As far as Ashwin is concerned I have seen him in the Challengers. He is not one of those bowlers whom you watch and fancy that he is really a good bowler. He is very effective, is consistent in line and length. He has got the carom ball also, so can really confuse the batsmen. It was good to have him in the side because he was bowling the first three overs consistently for us.
On Suresh Raina's form:
Raina batted really well. He just takes the opponents on and has started to finish the games. It is not just about reaching 30 or 40 runs, he looks to play the shots but at the same time he gives respect to the bowler also. I think in this format, we have to take a bit of risk and he has done that really well. And whenever it was needed to, he rotated the strike and he did that well also.
On playing Matthew Hayden in the final:
What really worked for us was the pressure was taken off Hayden. Somebody stood up and took up the responsibility. With Vijay, Raina batting well and others contributing, we decided to take the risk of playing Hayden. If he gets going, like he did against Delhi, it really worked for us. He is like Gilchrist, never scored in the World Cup and just scored in the final. So we took one of those chances but it didn't work. However, the intimidating factor is there with Hayden. I'm not really disappointed, don't regret playing him.
On the confidence shown by franchise owner N. Srinivasan:
There was a phase when we needed to win quite a few games to qualify for the semifinals. Mr. Srinivasan came up to us and said “we have confidence in you guys and the team will easily qualify.” I was not sure about it. So that brief motivational speech really worked for us.
On his approach to T20 as captain:
CSK were never under pressure going into the semifinals. As a team we wanted to do well, always go on the field and give 100 per cent. Even then if we are outplayed by the opponent, we can't really do much. T20 cricket is a format where we lose some and win some. At the end of the day, if you are preparing well and executing the plans, and still they don't work and you end on the losing side you have to accept it.
On waiting for two years to be on the winning side:
Two years is a not a long time. A lot of time went in preparation because we don't get time throughout the year. Maybe just one week or 10 days before the start and between matches. We have to gel well as a team… the dressing room atmosphere is very important.
On injuries dogging CSK:
We signed Flintoff. He got injured and then Balaji got injured for a season. Tyagi was injured last season. I think we were on the backfoot for quite a sometime, but we were able to manage our resources very well. I think we were one of the best sides to play consistent cricket over the last three editions of IPL. Considering the side, we played to 60 to 70 per cent to our potential. We could have played much better cricket but at the end of the day what really matters is that we have won.
On India's chances at the T20 World Cup:
I don't predict much in cricket. It is important to prepare well, handle the pressure and execute plans. If you can do that, adapt to the conditions, then we are a difficult side to beat. More often, instead of losing, I would prefer that the opponents defeat us. In this format, though India is a strong side we can be beaten at times. All I would say is we have got a good side and most of the players are fit. We hope to give our best and accept whatever the result is.
(This copy was corrected for spelling. "Jell" was replaced with "gel" after a reader pointed out the mistake.)