The Sri Lankans had finished their practice. They had even freshened up after a three-hour workout under a gruelling sun. Yet they had not left the Wankhede stadium. They hung around on the balcony of the changing room - both coaches and players - silently staring at the Indians training in the distance. It was an act of plain, studied observation. MS Dhoni's India, the pre-tournament favourites, have lived up to their billing and demonstrated over the course of the last 41 days why they are a formidable opponent. In the last week India kept their nerve to knock out Australia and Pakistan. No wonder Sri Lanka are wary.
Down in the middle, the Indians did nothing extraordinary in their final training session. There was an elastic ease about their workouts - in their batting, in their bowling and in their fielding. There was also the intensity that has become a by-word for Gary Kirsten's India. In his three-year tenure, Kirsten has developed a training routine that players like participating in. Rather than treating the practice sessions as chores, the players enjoy them, and that has helped maintain momentum.
Two days after the semi-final against Pakistan, a match Dhoni admitted had "drained" the team completely, India were back on the field with fresh legs and fresh ideas. Playing the final of the World Cup can stir various emotions and spur players and, according to Dhoni, the short gap between the semis and the final was actually an advantage because it would not allow the players to lose their focus.
"One good thing is we did not have a long break between the semi-finals and the final. Yesterday was the travelling day and today the practice day, so that really helps not to think too much about the future. We are just being in the present and preparing ourselves for the big game," Dhoni said.
On the eve of the Pakistan match, Dhoni said India would treat the game like any other. Today he admitted that had not been the case. "It was a big game. India versus Pakistan is always a big game. And when you saw the guest list there was further pressure on us. There is pressure on individuals when we are playing Pakistan," he said. "But at the same time we know as a team what the hype is, what the expectations are. Of course, we are quite drained after the semi-finals. But the last two days we have utilised as best we could to give our best in the finals."
When asked if the plans change for a team like Sri Lanka, a different opponent when compared to Australia and Pakistan, Dhoni said that more than the opposition, it was their own preparation and performance on the field that was the determining factor. "The preparation remains the same, [it's] just that the opponents change. It is about how you turn up on the field and what you actually do on the field. We know strengths, the weaknesses and what we need to do on the field."
Dhoni felt India had not yet played to full potential and said they had built slow momentum going forward with every match. "Every game was a challenge for us. As soon as we reached the knockout stages, and the teams we played in the quarters and the semis, we had to be at our best. That is what we did. We were not thinking about the result. We were thinking about how we need to prepare ourselves, how we needed to increase the intensity on the field so that we can field better. There is no moment when you are switched off when you are on the field."
Tomorrow, once again, nothing can distract them. Not Sachin Tendulkar going for his 100th century. Not the match being Kirsten's final game as India's coach. Not playing the final in front of another full house. "It is all about this particular game, remaining in the present."
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