Recollecting the World Cup final, where MS Dhoni scored an unbeaten 91, Paddy Upton has revealed that the management always knew that Dhoni was the man for high-pressure moments. He also added that Sachin Tendulkar’s presence in the dressing room was very impactful and credited his experience.
When India found themselves 114/3, everyone expected the in-form Yuvraj Singh to walk out to the batting crease. However, when Indian skipper MS Dhoni walked out to bat, it left the fans in a state of shock, given his form in the tournament thus far. But when Dhoni took the challenge on, taking the off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan head-on, it was a sign of the things to come on the night for the Indian skipper, who finished unbeaten on 91.
India’s mental conditioning coach Paddy Upton, who was part of the 2011 World Cup setup, revealed that the management always knew that Dhoni was the right-man for the high-pressure moments. He also added that Dhoni could transfer pressure from the team to the opposition in a short span of time, which made him highly successful.
“Outside of that period of six weeks, we know that Dhoni is the man for the high-pressure moments. He has done it over and over in his career, gone out to bat, particularly batting second in the chase in a white ball format. And he is the person who is better than anyone in the world at seeing a team home and across the line and transferring pressure from himself and his team onto the bowling team, the opposition captain, and opposition fielders,” Upton told TOI.
However, he also opined that if Dhoni had got out early or had chewed up a lot of deliveries, it would have gone against him but still reckoned that ‘tough’ decisions are taken by great leaders.
“If Dhoni happened to get a great delivery and he got out, we'll be talking about it very differently. And particularly if Dhoni chewed up a whole lot of balls and caused things to go wrong. But that's great leaders. They take the really difficult decisions for the sake of the team; they take the right decision. The right decision was the man for that moment needed to go out and do what he had done so often in his career before,” he added.
Upton also recalled that Dhoni’s calmness spilt over onto the players in the dressing room, which really allowed him and the team to make smart decisions in key moments.
“So, Dhoni's calmness would have spilled over onto the players and there was a key piece particularly playing a World Cup at home in India. His calmness was great and the calmness enabled him to make smart decisions in key moments and high-pressure moments on the field. His mind wasn't chaotic, so he was able to make good decisions.”
The 52-year-old from South Africa also talked about Sachin’s presence in the dressing room, which was immense to the team in the 2011 World Cup. He also added that the veteran was good at inspiring the youngsters, which benefitted the team.
“Massive. Sachin's presence is always massive for everyone around him. Particularly, the amount of experience he had, the fact that he played in five World Cups was really big. And we really drew on as much of that experience as we could from him. He's particularly good with inspiring the youngsters. We had a conversation early on and we said to the players to find a greater reason, a greater cause beyond yourself why you would want to win the World Cup.”