When India loses the match, we all go in analysis mode. Why did they lose? Should they have elected to bat first? Should the batting order be changed? Should they have played three spinners instead of two?
But when we win, we are just opening Campaigns and giving each others high-fives.
What went right in this world cup? Why did India win?
There seems one fairly big reason. In coach Gary Kirsten and captain MS Dhoni, we seem to have found a right pair of a strategist and an executor. Sort of like Chanakya and Chandragupta.
Gary Kirsten was shaped in South African team that was coached by Bob Woolmer. Woolmer changed the game of cricket the same way Toyota changed the auto industry. Toyota made quality of vehicles as their strategic strength. People were buying Toyota vehicles just because they were very reliable. Woolmer made fielding, the most unglamorous, and thus most neglected aspect of the game of cricket till then, a strategic strength of South African team. Under his coaching, South African team was doing excellent job in fielding. Thus they were giving a lot fewer runs and getting more wickets by turning impossible catches into possible ones. This reduced pressure on their bowlers and batsmen and helped them gain advantage in close cutting matches.
Kirsten brought the same strategic vision to the Indian team. India always had strong batting side. Under Kirsten’s guidance, they developed their fielding performance. Also the bowling attack was more balanced, instead of leaning overly on spinners or on pace bowlers.
MS Dhoni proved to be a great captain. One great characteristic of a good leader is knowing when to take risks. Dhoni proved his risk-taking skill in the final against Sri Lanka. His decision to change the batting order and bump himself up ensured that the Sri Lankan bowlers were dealing with a left-handed, and right-handed batsman combination. In the game of cricket, this means the bowler has to change his bowling tactics, fielding positions every time the batsman changes from left hand to right hand and vice versa. This derails the overall rhythm of the bowler.
Here is an article that goes into statistics on several other reasons why Dhoni experiments with his rank in batting. It seems fairly obvious that Dhoni has been experimenting with his batting order and getting favorable results. He was able to use all this experience in chalking a right strategy with help from Kirsten, thus eventually leading India to victory.
Beyond a certain point in any game, skill takes a second place and the strategy takes driving seat. A right strategy creates a right situation where skill can shine and maximizes chances of success. Cricket is not an exception.