Thursday, 31 March 2011 19:09
NEW DELHI: India were desperate on Thursday to prevent their World Cup campaign from being overwhelmed by a wave of national hysteria ahead of Saturday's final against Sri Lanka in Mumbai.
The semi-final win over arch-rivals Pakistan in Mohali sparked wild late-night celebrations, dominating front pages and leading TV news bulletins.
But Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni warned against complacency.
"There'll be plenty of things happening around us, like in the game against Pakistan, but what's important is not to get distracted. We all know what our jobs are as professional cricketers so we'll stick to that," insisted Dhoni.
Despite his pleadings, the Indian press wasn't listening.
"After this...the Cup is a bonus," said the headline on Mail Today which splashed a picture of the celebrating Indian team across its entire front page.
"India book Mumbai matinee," wrote the Hindustan Times.
Dhoni also praised master batsman Sachin Tendulkar whose 85 runs proved crucial in the 29-run win in Mohali even if he fell short once again of making 100 international centuries.
The superstar player will get another chance on Saturday in his home city of Mumbai.
"He batted really well and when he's there he makes it easy for the others to score because he guides them really well," said Dhoni.
"If you bat with Sachin for 15 games you have the kind of experience you'd have after 50 games."
Sri Lanka's Australian coach Trevor Bayliss insists that star bowler Muttiah Muralitharan, who has been suffering from hamstring and knee injuries, will be fit for the final.
However, Muralitharan, who'll retire after Saturday's game, skipped practice on Thursday at the Wankhede stadium.
Further doubts over his availability, as well as that of all-rounder Angelo Mathews, were raised when veteran seamer Chaminda Vaas, 37, and off-spinner Suraj Randiv were flown to Mumbai as cover.
Bayliss said that Muralitharan, who turns 39 next month, was determined to take the field in his last international match.
"Chances are good that Murali will play," the coach said. "He completed 10 overs in the semi-final, and such is the character of the man that he will play even with discomfort."
Vaas, who was part of the 1996 World Cup winning team, retired from Tests in July 2009 with 355 wickets.
He has collected 400 one-day wickets but he hasn't played an ODI since August 2008.
"Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2011