Mohali: South African explorer’s pep talk will be ringing in their ears when the Indian cricket team walk out for Wednesday’s World Cup semi-final against Pakistan.
Johannesburg-born Mike Horn, also a motivational speaker, has returned to India for yet another stint with Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his men who are fine-tuning their skills and finalising strategy for the match in this tiny north Indian city.
Dhoni denied his team mates needed any extra motivation but felt the players have benefitted from the interaction with the explorer who has undertaken various para-gliding, rafting and sailing expeditions through the Amazon, the Himalayas and to the North Pole.
“He is a great guy to be with, I don’t think most of the Indians know about him and what he has done,” Dhoni told reporters at the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) Stadium on Tuesday.
“He is an explorer basically and shares his experiences with us. He is not there to motivate the team. It is just that the experience that he has got, only a few in the world have gone through that. It actually defines what you can do as a human being. You can push yourself for competition. He loves the team, has been part of us in quite a few series in the past.”
South Africa provides the bulk of India’s support staff, including coach Gary Kirsten and mental conditioning coach Paddy Upton.
With the hype around the match that would draw a full-house including prime ministers from both the countries, the Indian players need to avoid every possible distraction.
Dhoni said at least he was not thinking about the hype.
“All this has been part of Indian cricket for a long time, this is not the first time that we have seen it,” he said.
“Some of the distinguished guests will be there to see the game but will be here to enjoy cricket. So we have to be at our best. When you talk about hype and pressure, thinking or not thinking does not help you perform. What does not help you needs to be kept away. You need to think more about the skill aspect.”
Talking of skill, Dhoni’s form with the bat has not been really great—his highest score in the tournament being 34.
The Indian captain believes he did not get enough opportunity to chip in with the bat.
“I have been batting quite well but some of the situations have not really been good for playing flamboyant cricket,” he said.
“Against Bangladesh, I could not get to bat. Also (in other matches), some hots went straight to the fielders. When you are batting at five, six or seven, if the top order scores well, it does not give much opportunities to the lower order (batsmen).”