The only thing greyer than Mahendra Singh Dhoni's salt-n-pepper stubble here is perhaps the shade of the sky. Such has been his reluctance to crop the fuzz that you'd think he is convinced it's his lucky charm.

It's what you can make of him when he is an arm's length away, grinning his infectious grin, micro-analyzing situations in a macro setting. He'll be in your zone, talking your talk, but he's already lost in his own world, plotting his next move.

What goes on inside the mind of India's most successful skipper nobody really knows. The world can only try and decipher. The stubble is perhaps the only visible clue. Nothing else tells you what he may be thinking on the eve of the final of a major ICC tournament.

Will he shave after the final? "Because I shaved my head after winning the World Cup," he asks. "Nothing like that," he says, without waiting for an answer.

A World Cup, a World Twenty20, and the top-rank in Test cricket - he's conquered all the three formats. The only major title eluding his cupboard yet is the Champions Trophy. He will hope to change that when he leads India into the final on Sunday against England.

One can, however, try and imagine the number of things that may be going on in his mind right now.

India play England, the hosts, and have the onus of tackling two of the best pace bowlers in these conditions - James Anderson and Stuart Broad. Anderson, one of the finest swing bowlers in the world right now, has a reputation with the new ball. Ask teams - South Africa and New Zealand in particular - who had no clue against him.

Then, there are some nagging questions about opener Rohit Sharma, who's given good starts but has failed to prolong his innings. The middle-order, barring Suresh Raina's 14-ball stint in the semifinal against Sri Lanka, hasn't got a chance to bat or get into the groove yet. India's own attack has given away more runs than the team would wish in the death overs. There's a lot to be wary of.

But then, there are positives - Shikhar Dhawan's excellent run of form and Ravindra Jadeja's brilliant all-round skills; Bhuvneshwar Kumar's control of the new ball and Virat Kohli coming back to top form aspects that have made Team India appear the best side in the tournament.

These are micro elements that concern the Sunday clash but, for Dhoni, there's also the bigger picture.

His own success-rate as a skipper which took a beating in 2011-12, the relief this trophy might possibly bring to disgruntled fans back home, the very fact that India haven't won a Champions Trophy (they shared it with Sri Lanka once) ever and the beginning of the road to the World Cup in 2015 could also be playing on his mind.


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Keywords: Mahendra Singh Dhoni, salt-n-pepper , skipper ,ICC tournament, World Cup, World Twenty20,Champions Trophy, pace bowlers,James Anderson,Stuart Broad, Shikhar Dhawan, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar,Virat Kohli ,cricket news,sports news