I usually don't muck around much with reading a lot of match previews, which could possibly be the only reason I managed to miss this gem:
"The day before the game, we'll practice, one good hard session, and we're ready for the game," Dhoni said. "Whatever suits the team."
Dhoni took it a step further. "Mentally we are right there. When it comes to the mind it depends on what you're feeding into the mind. The mind doesn't know if it's Napier or what you're feeding. You come and say 'this is Napier', and it believes it's Napier. If you see, it's an abstract. When people say 'he's in form', nobody has seen form. It's a state of mind where you are confident and you think very positively and everything you think about, you think it's very achievable. It's about how you treat the mind. One day here, one day there doesn't really make a difference. Preparation-wise, we are up to the mark."
Give the man a chocolate, he's talking philosophy. A couple dozen. Maybe a tonne. The whole frickin' chocolate factory.
Because, this? This is gold. And I'm not being sarcastic. Honest.
(Although the repeated use of 'abstract' to me indicates a bit of Kirstenisation and Uptonisation to Dhoni's theory.)
I love the way he explains it. It's interesting, and for an armchair geek like me, a welcome departure from the redundant cliches that seem to envelop the game like a shroud. Now that the Test hasn't (isn't) gone (at) all India's way, the whole thing's open to criticism, but one can't deny that it makes some sense. A lot of things are said to be "just in the mind" and Dhoni has always stressed on mental readiness and composure to be able to face the pressures of international cricket to go along with the actual cricket, because if you're good enough to get into the national team, you're pretty freakin good, but developing a frame of mind that's able to deal with a billion plus expectations, the pressures, the attention and the tribulations? That has to be learnt anew.
I'm just wondering if Dhoni ever tried it on himself re his injury. Wonder if he thought he could go out there, and tell his mind, "I'm perfectly fine, my back's feeling great, the sights and sounds of Ranchi are all around me, and oh look! There's my neighbour's son coming in to bowl as usual. Wonder when he dyed his hair blond."
OH that explains it all! Poor thing wasn't able to make the mantra work on the morning of the first day, it would seem.
DHONI'S MIND: I'm perfectly fine, my back...
DHONI'S BODY: Enough.
DHONI'S MIND: ... feeling gr-- Huh?
DHONI'S BODY: Enough.
DHONI'S MIND: Enough what, exactly?
DHONI'S BODY: Are we even connected anymore these days? Wake up, smell the coffee. It's cold, it's windy. That's a six foot blond New Zealander barelling in to get us out, and the back--
DHONI'S MIND: Bother me not with these trifles. I still have to ponder upon the Meaning of Life after this, you know.
DHONI'S BODY: ... suit yourself.
DHONI: ack! *spasm*
Yep, that's definitely what happened.
(Inspired by the decidedly funnier kroki-refur)
Now. Regarding the match itself? Finally a day where India get their butts into it, with Dravid and Gambhir and later Gambhir and Tendulkar digging and sprouting roots and growing leaves. Oh, and they batted a bit in between, too. I think Tendulkar did, anyway.
Four days in and we have not acted like one of the world's best Test sides. If the catching and fielding (Yuvraj + slip = DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT) let the team down after whittling NZ down to 23/3 in the first innings and allowed the Black Caps to post 619 (*gasp!*) on the board, the batting decided to complete the job and got bowled out for 305, after which the NZers ask us to follow on. Yes, quite a bitchslap to the face that must've been for a team that beat the same opposition like flicking a speck of dust out of its eye a week ago and was expected to do the same here. (mild irritation, but nothing at all harmful)
I cannot possibly comment on Sehwag's captaincy, not having seen the match live myself, but sending Ishant in as nightwatchman in the first innings? Not one of his brighter ideas.
Leaving aside Sehwag getting out early (again) the Indians are chugging along okay enough in the follow-on innings, with Gambhir reaching his first overseas Test century off 260-odd balls, at a strike rate in the mid-30s. If you thought that was slow, I took a look at Dravid's strike rate: 28. Yeowch. Still, it's all for the team, right? Incredibly important innings, if and when we go on to draw this.
The NZers have done great, they really have. The batting rode on terrific innings from Ryder and Taylor to post 600+, and the bowlers have been disciplined, tireless and for the first time in a long time, backed up by a truckload of runs from their batsmen.
Tomorrow could be an interesting day. India still trail by 62 runs, 8 wickets in hand, Gambhir and Tendulkar looking comfortable (enough) at the crease, all this points to a draw, but who knows? A collapse, a tiny target-chase, an innings defeat, even?
Also? I kinda whooped and cheered when Dinesh Kaarthick got out for single-figures in the first innings. Does that make me a bad person?
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