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February 7, 2015

MS Dhoni


Q. India has won the last two major tournaments, the World Cup and the Champions Trophy. Do you think you've got sufficient respect from the cricket world coming into this because of that record?
MS DHONI: I think what's important is not the respect. The capability of the team is more important, and what has really happened for us is even when we were playing the Champions Trophy, we are going through a patch where we are not doing really well, and the guys stepped up during that tournament, and we played very consistently. That's what really counts, because a lot of times when you try to respect the teams, you look at the team on paper and you try to respect them, but I feel this World Cup, most of the teams, they are quite balanced, and you know, most of the teams are looking good, and when I say most, it's in excess of six or seven teams that I'm talking about. So I feel it will be a very special World Cup for all the teams. It's a matter of which team is more consistent during the World Cup, what kind of momentum they take with them into the knockout stages, and all of that will be crucial.

Q. How hard is it actually to win on home soil? Obviously Australia is hosting this. It's obviously not easy.
MS DHONI: Well, it is slightly tough. That's what also the stats suggest. It's not something that a lot of home teams have won the World Cup. The expectation of the people, it's very high, and that's what we figure out when we are touring and all over in India playing different venues. Everybody just says, you have to get the World Cup, and you ask them, okay, why do you feel that or why do you say so, and the answer is not that you are a very good team at all. The answer is it's happening in India. I think the same will apply to the Australians and the New Zealand side, but at the same time, their culture is slightly different, so what's a kind of expectation level, that we'll have to wait and watch. But I think it will be exciting.

Q. How much of a factor are the Australian conditions for your team to overcome?
MS DHONI: Well, I think what's important is to adapt to the condition and the middle I feel will be very crucial. The TriSeries that we have played so far, we have seen that the new ball is something that is quite crucial, but also a lot depends on the kind of wicket that is provided. New Zealand will be slightly different to playing in Australia. A lot will depend on the venues, what kind of a wicket it is, if it's overcast, or if there's rain forecast, and all of that will come into action relatively more than when we played in the subcontinent. You have to address quite a few things, but keeping it simple is very important.

Q. Talking about conditions, very few touring teams have as much time to prepare for World Cup in the familiar conditions than you guys have had, so that's an advantage, I suppose, but on the other side of it, it's a long time away from home, and also I suppose confidence may be down because you haven't won a game. How do you get that back up?
MS DHONI: Well, I know how to cook. There's a very fine line between  especially if you do barbecue you can understand that. But again, as I said, when we went and played the Champions Trophy we were in a similar situation like this, and the guys stepped up, and that's what I feel is important in the ICC tournaments. If you see the past, there have been quite a few teams that do really well in the ICC tournaments. They may not be the best of teams when it comes to the Bilateral Series, but they have always stepped up when it comes to the ICC tournaments. What we have seen is how you rise to an occasion like this and how you take the confidence forward to something that's more important and somewhat different to a Bilateral Series.

Q. One week to the start of the first match, and you have been here for about three months. What are some areas that you have not actually addressed? What are the areas you want addressed or answered in the next couple of practice matches?
MS DHONI: Well, I think what's crucial for us will be the middle overs, both in batting and bowling. We knew the new ball is something that's key. If you can get partnership going when you're backing and if you can take wickets with the new ball, it becomes relatively easy to capitalize in those middle overs, but I feel the middle overs will be the key factor, how you rotate in the middle overs, what kind of a run rate you achieve, the minimum number of wickets you lose when you are batting will be the key factor, and when you are bowling, how many wickets you can take in the middle over will be crucial, because again, that will put pressure on the opposition so that they can at least go from the 35th over onwards with the second powerplay and the slog. We haven't had much opportunity to bowl in the slog overs. That's something that will only come into action once the World Cup starts. We have got a couple of practice games, and apart from that we have quite happy with everyone, how they have come up. There have been a few fitness issues, but it has been sorted.

Q. Obviously in Australia we've seen India, Pakistan rivalry from afar. Can you tell us what 2 actually means as an Indian cricketer to play Pakistan, and how crucial is that first game to get a win under your belt?
MS DHONI: Well, I think you know a lot of people have different views about it. How I personally take it forward is it's similar to playing against Australia, Sri Lanka or any other test playing nation because the moment you start thinking about a traditional rivalry and all of that, you're just adding pressure to yourself. Also, what we have successfully done in the last three to four years, we have mellowed down the things that apart from cricket happens on the field. We have stuck to good, aggressive cricket on the field, but what we have minimized is the warble, things that often happen between the cricketers. I feel that's really good for the game because you want to play it as a sport, you want to play it hard, but you still have to maintain the spirit of the game. That's one thing that both sides have done really well.

Q. What's the fitness status of the players right now, including Rohit Sharma, the bowlers and Rohit Sharma?
MS DHONI: Well, you'll have to wait. This is just like a prematch  it's not a prematch conference, just an open media session, so we will addressing in the coming few days.

Q. How is sort of the team coping with the pressures coming in as defending champs and also having a billion people at home sort of eagerly seeing how this is going to unfold?
MS DHONI: Well, I think that's what's most is the 15member squad and the support staff right now, not to think about expectation level is something that will be crucial. That's something that we have dealt with in the last World Cup, and we constantly have to deal with it, the expectation levels of the fans of India, and what's important for us is to think and concentrate more about what our plans are, how we need to execute our plans, and how we quickly need to assess the situation, and those will be the key factors, so we are not thinking too much about what the fans are expecting out of us. We know what needs to be done and we'll be concentrating more on that.

Q. Do you think because you played a test match series the team was jetted and now you have recharged your batteries, and playing the first match against Pakistan, will it be an advantage or a disadvantage because we have won against Pakistan in almost all the tournaments, ICC tournaments?
MS DHONI: Well, only time will tell. We have been here, yes, we have played a test match series which was fairly long followed by a TriSeries, and it's almost the same thing that plays for us, barring a few changes. It's almost the same batting lineup and the same bowling lineup. Definitely they would have felt the workload. It's not easy to play four test matches followed by a trynation series. This break would have definitely helped them to recharge their batteries. Whether it will or not, only time will tell. About playing against Pakistan, we still have two practice games before that. We like to get the most out of it, get settled with the playing 11 that we want to feature in the first game. I won't say there's a big advantage or disadvantage as such, but again, the coming warmup games will be crucial from the perspective that what we want to achieve out of it is more important for us.

Q. You mentioned the middle order. Is it a bit of a challenge for you personally from a mindset standpoint? You don't have as deep a batting lineup as a number of the other teams. For you to find that head space to play with the freedom that you play at your best, the back end of innings?
MS DHONI: That's something, depending on the condition, we have to alter a bit. Wicket in hand is something that's really our strength, but it will be slightly different. That's why I said the middle overs will be the key feature for us, how we rotate, what kind of options we have got, what kind of shorts we play, where we can get the most number of runs with minimal risk, and once we have wickets in hand, we can really exploit the condition, because it will be nice. The ball will come on to the bat nicely, and if there's an error from the bowler's side we can make the most out of it. But as you rightly said, we are not that deep when it comes to batting. It's somewhat different to some of the other teams. Yes, to some extent when you lose quick wickets it does play in your mind, especially when the No. 5 or 6 batsman, they're going to bat. They can't just freely play their shots, they have to calculate, and it's slightly different, the reason being when you bat like 3 or when you're batting at 4, you know there are four or five batsmen behind you, but when you're batting lower down the order and you know you have to get a decent score, but at the same time you can't lose too many wickets or play a highrisk shot. It does play on your mind, but it's all about how you manage that and still pick options where you can score runs freely.

Q. Would you have rather been in India for these two days?
MS DHONI: Not really. I've been blessed with a baby daughter. Mom and daughter both are good. But as of right now I'm on national duty, so I think everything else can wait. World Cup is a very important campaign, and everything can wait as of now.

Q. How much do you think the oneday game has changed since the 2011 World Cup in terms of, I guess, what you need to post a defendable score now?
MS DHONI: You know, I think it has changed to the extent where apart from  you see a lot of people comparing when it comes to stat, and I think the game has changed so much that you can't really compare the stat. The rule changes, the use of the new ball. I think apart from saying the new ball, it moves around, you have to give a bit more respect to the bowlers, I think other than that a lot has changed in cricket. The way the game is played because of the T20 format also coming in, I think there have been big changes. But also we have to respect the condition that we're going to be playing in and realize on a wicket like this, even 240 or 260 can be a good score, depending on that particular wicket. When we played Australia, the wicket was slightly different, and when you play England, the wicket is quite different. You have to see what the wicket or how the wicket is behaving, and even 250 can be a very good score, and some of these wickets, even 340, 350 may not be a score that you can easily defend. It will all be about how quickly you assess the wicket, and you have to also see slightly ahead of the game, whether the wicket is slow down or not, because if the wicket slows down over here it becomes very difficult to play the big shots, the reason being the outfield is quite big, so it makes it very difficult for the batsmen.
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