Hamilton: Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni loves players who can take challenges head on and for him that's the reason two of his trusted lieutenants Ravichandran Ashwin and Shikhar Dhawan have been his stand-out performers for the Indian cricket team in the ongoing ICC World Cup.
"The spinners have really bowled well. As far as Ashwin is concerned, obviously he's someone that I always love to have, the reason being I always pushed him to bowl in the powerplays and even have used him whenever I'm in difficult situations. So he is really confident about his bowling. He understands his bowling well," Dhoni said about his leading spinner, who has taken 11 wickets in five games so far.
"I believe he (Ashwin) has learnt a lot in the last few foreign tours. The good thing with him is that he keeps improving himself. Every time he's part of the series, he sees the challenges and accordingly he improves. So it's obviously good to have him, and it's good to see him bowl really well," the skipper said.
Shikhar Dhawan on Tuesday cracked a scintillating century as rampaging India demolished Ireland by eight wickets to seal the top spot in the Group-B table.
Asked how much faith he has in Shikhar Dhawan, the Indian captain said that left-hander's attitude towards improving himself as a player gives him confidence.
"You know, it's important to back players, and we try to do it to the extent we can. And I felt though he (Shikhar) had a tough series, still I felt we had put a lot of effort in him, and not to forget without his contribution it would have been very difficult to win the Champions Trophy. So we always believed in him.
"But the final step needs to be taken from the individual and I felt he prepared well for these ODIs," Dhoni said.
He also spoke about a player needing that 15 minutes to get into the zone and said that's what happened with Dhawan.
"It obviously takes time but I have always said, it's those 15 minutes that really changes everything. I'm glad he got those 15 minutes. What he's doing well is making the most out of it. As you know you may go through tough periods where you may not score runs, and you may get good deliveries, but it's important to think about the process," said Dhoni.
"Whatever your limitations are, you keep improving on those areas. Whatever your strength is, you make sure that whenever it is in that particular area you make the most out of it by getting a boundary.
"But overall the difference I've seen in his (Dhawan's) batting is once he gets a start he makes a good score -- you can say he takes that as an opportunity to reward that start into big innings, and right from the first game that's what he's done," Dhoni said while lauding Dhawan, who now has 333 runs from five games.
He said that Dhawan is not someone who gets satisfied with a half-century and is always hungry for big scores.
"He's (Dhawan) not someone who is happy getting a 50. He knows that the team needs him to score big runs. So once he gets to his 15, he hits the next milestone which is a hundred.
With him doing that, it becomes slightly easy for some of the other guys to bat around him, because he takes that responsibility. He's someone who can also accelerate at a decent pace. He uses the pace of the bowler and can bat aggressively.
"So all in all, I'm quite happy with the way he's gone forward because it's not that he's here to come out of a phase where you've not scored a lot of runs."
Asked about how motivated the team will be facing Zimbabwe in an inconsequential game, the skipper said, "We're highly motivated. If it comes to the points, we have qualified for the next stage, but still, it was a challenge in itself because the traveling issue that we had. A lot of boys didn't get enough sleep before this game because of the time we landed and the traveling that we have to do and all of that.
"So every game pushes you to do something special, and I felt we did really well on the field. Same way the next game will be the last before we get into the knockout stages, so we'll like to keep improving every game. That's our motive to keep improving in every game so that we can maintain the forward shift that we have got."
Dhoni, meanwhile, seemed unperturbed having surpassed Sourav Ganguly led Indian team's record of eight consecutive wins in World Cup.
"As far as the records and milestones are concerned, the most important thing is winning the game for your country. It doesn't really matter what the milestone is. Definitely it's something that every player will be proud of. The last World Cup...all the team members thanks to them and the current team also because it's a team effort. At the end of the day, we play a team sport, and everybody needs to enjoy it."
He also lauded the fielders for their brilliant effort, stating that the new crop of players have really raised the bar as far as fielding is concerned.
"You can see the new generation cricketers which gets slightly better facilities, good grounds, so diving comes quite naturally to them. The fact that all of them are quite fit, and most of them are agile on the field. You may be fit but you may not be quick. But over here if you see the 11 that we played, almost all of them are good fielders.
"There may be one average fielder in the whole 11, but when you have extraordinary fielders backed by really good fielders, you'll have a side that can outfield some of the other sides," Dhoni said.