Ranjib Biswal, the former Odisha Cricket Association chief, has been privy to many a watershed moment in Indian cricket.
He was there as Team India manager when M. S. Dhoni launched Nuwan Kulasekara over long-on to lift the 2011 World Cup at home. He was there when, coming on the heels of a spot-fixing controversy in the IPL, India won the Champions Trophy in England.
Now as the preparations for the 2019 World Cup reach the final leg, Biswal shares an anecdote from the 2011 edition which gave him a scare. "During the World Cup semifinal against Pakistan in Mohali, the team nearly took the field empty stomach... The high profile match was watched by Prime Ministers from both countries, which meant the army, the National Security Guard (NSG), and the Special Protection Group (SPG), guarding the PM, had taken over the stadium," Biswal told Sportstar.
"The security protocols delayed the arrival of the team bus and subsequently our lunch, so much so that the players were about to start a match against Pakistan without any food.
"So I rushed to a nearby VIP enclosure and grabbed whatever fruits I could get my hands on and made sure they got something to eat before the scheduled start of play."
Biswal, who was a national selector when Dhoni led India to the Twenty20 World Cup win in 2007, shared how the former India captain put the minds of the players at ease during the high-pressure tournament.
"There's a reason why we call him Captain Cool. He didn't show emotions on the field regardless of his form. This allowed other players to remain focused on the main task. He used to speak to his teammates individually before a big match [2011 World Cup] and help them get in the zone," Biswal said.
Biswal, a former off-spinning all-rounder for Odisha, shared what his job as team manager entailed. "Look, playing a world cup in front of the home crowd is as tough as it gets. Mainly, my job was putting the minds of the players at ease, which wasn't that difficult considering I had already spent about a year-and-a-half with the boys before the tournament began. My first assignment was the South Africa tour in 2010.
"Each player has his strengths and weaknesses and the key lies in making the individual realise that the strengths are the best traits they have. Gary (Kirsten) [the then India coach] and M. S. used to hold sessions everyday. The team felt like a family, there was no senior-junior divide in the squad," he said.
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