As India organized for the World Cup final against Sri Lanka, India’s then mental conditioning coach Paddy Upton recollects how the task was to maintain the team and players on an even keel and not get shaken by the sentiments. It was an enormous event and needless to say that the team was under massive pressure, recalls Upton in a report.
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The gravitas of playing a World Cup final in Mumbai wasn’t lost on any single player or support staff. It was about whether to keep the players on an even keel and not get them extremely enthusiastic and worried.
India had put up the competitive mark of 275 by Sri Lanka. The hosts hunted the target with 10 balls to spare with skipper MS Dhoni walking away with the man of the match award. This after Gautam Gambhir had laid a strong foundation for the chase with a 122-ball 97 runs.
According to Upton Gautam Gambhir’s contribution was big, as everyone talks about Dhoni’s innings but Gambhir gripped the entire inning together.
One of the enormous moments of the World Cup came after the wicket of Gambhir. Dhoni walked out in the middle ahead of in-form Yuvraj Singh, who will go on to win the player of the tournament award.
Upton said as far as he can remember it was a decision taken by Dhoni and it brought India the World Cup.
“I often get asked about Dhoni’s elevation in the batting order, him going ahead of Yuvraj. This is a first-hand recollection. I heard a knock on the window. Gary and I turned around at the same time. It was Dhoni, he indicated he was batting next. That was it. There are very few players in the world who are genuine “massive high-pressure” players.
As per him, Yuvraj Singh is not one of those but Dhoni is. He remembers very certainly when Dhoni walked down the stairs, he turned to Gary and said “Do you realise Dhoni is going there to fetch us the World Cup?” He had the ultimate confidence that Dhoni would come back with the cup.