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King Dhoni: One to lead them all


altFollowing my article on Sourav Ganguly, this one is about arguably one of the greatest captains in Indian history (as per statistics, even as we dada fans beg to differ) MS Dhoni. He first came into the national team when the team was on the lookout for an alternate keeper to The Wall and the tried and tested Dinesh Karthick kept failing. Went unnoticed for a few matches, and then came the blitzkrieg against Pakistan. Promoted to No 3 by Ganguly he clobbered the Pakistan bowlers all over the park. That was clean muscular hitting at its best, which only the Australians and South African's took pride in. Never had an Indian batsman hit the ball with such ferocity. That innings unearthed a new dawn in Indian cricket. Yes, Dhoni the icon was born.

That innings against Pakistan was just the beginning of the show. He murdered the Sri Lankan bowlers few months later for another breathtaking innings. Just when everybody thought we have unleashed an Afridi-esque player, the maturity of Dhoni began to blossom. Dhoni the hitter became Dhoni the finisher. The helicopter shots did not come as often as in his early days, instead it was replaced by pokes and nudges for singles and doubles. This one feature made him the icon he is today, his adaptability. A natural hitter, he started playing against his style which, trust me, is very difficult at the International level. And boy did he succeed in it too. That was the time when Sachin and Dravid were left to do everything and Yuvraj needed support in the middle order. Along with Yuvi he pulled off many a rescue acts for India. Now it has reached to such an extent that he has the second best average for a player with more than 200 ODIs.

A few handy knocks down the order, and then came the unthinkable. A masterstroke by the BCCI to promote him as the captain of the Indian T20 team for the world cup in 2007, a move which left Sehwag and Yuvi fuming with disgust. Dhoni was handed the captaincy based on a suggestion by Sachin Tendulkar (Who can refuse when the God himself nominates a guy!). He did not prove Sachin wrong. He marshalled a young team and led them to India's first World Cup win since 1983. His name was etched in the history books.

The voice for him to be appointed captain in all formats grew. In the mean time he continued playing his finisher role with aplomb.

Dhoni the Captain :

He has brought his own style to captaincy. If Sourav Ganguly was about aggression and Dravid the tactician then MSD is a calm thinker. He backs his players which is his biggest strength. Ravindra Jadeja would not have been half the player he is had it not been for Dhoni. Many a times you may wonder who the captain is, because he is not the showy kind. But silently he goes about his job instead. Placing an unorthodox short mid-on for Pollard during the Champions League final is an example of tactical brilliance under pressure. In Test matches he is half the player that he is in the shorter formats and even lesser as a captain. But his period as a Test captain coincided with the brilliance of the Fab 4 and the excellent background work done by Gary Kirsten. But who can forget the man whose 91* (along with Gambhir's knock) helped us win the World Cup 2011. That will be the moment we Indians will cherish forever and we should be grateful to Dhoni for that.

What separates Dhoni from the rest? A cool head under pressure and his faith in his own ability. He only tries to hit the balls which are in his zone. This safety approach reflects in his number of not outs. There may be many players who are doubly talented than Dhoni but his temperament makes him stand out. But is his captaincy really tested? That’s the main question. He captained the team when the senior players were at their peak. Now that the seniors are retiring one by one, the litmus test of his captaincy has just begun. He has failed in the first attempt during tours of England and Australia. Now that Yuvi is out of action, can he really put his hand up and toughen the team. That’s what Dada did when he identified a young team and changed them into match winners. My personal suggestion would be to leave the Test captaincy to someone else and retain him just for ODIs and T20s. He is on the verge of a breaking down and too much pressure would not do him any favours. India can ill afford to lose a player of his calibre.

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