Ranchi, Jan. 20 -- Mahendra Singh Dhoni owes his success as a player at the highest level to his unwavering belief that, despite not being a cricketer in the classical mould, he can do things his way.
His leadership has come under intense scrutiny, especially his Test captaincy. Few would have survived the lows India have hit since the 2011 World Cup victory. The home Test series against Australia, starting late next month, can still decide in which direction India move, at least in shaping the Test side.
One yardstick which Dhoni uses to support players is that they should be sharp on the field and be willing to learn on the job. And he is good at breaking things down while determining where they stand in the team's perspective, the support to young seamers Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Shami Ahmed in an injury-hit area being a case in point.
If a survey was done to pick the MVP in Indian cricket, Ravindra Jadeja may still not figure among the top five. A year back, many were surprised when the southpaw from Saurashtra was wrested by the Dhoni-led Chennai Super Kings at the Indian Premier League players' auction, which set a league record by paying an undisclosed sum over and above the maximum purse of $2 million.
Jadeja made his ODI debut in 2009, but Dhoni's confidence in the 24-year-old would have only grown after their century stand in the Oval ODI against England in 2011. The hosts won under the rain rule, but it was a rare bright spark on a gloomy tour.
Despite his two Ranji triple centuries in quick succession this season, there were questions about his ODI spot until his 37-ball 61 not out alongside his skipper's power-hitting (72 off 66 balls) in Kochi. He followed it up with two wickets to claim the Man-of-the-Match award.
In Ranchi, he vowed to stick to the basics; two batsmen were bowled playing for the turn and another fell leg before.
Dhoni is still seen as the one to guide India in the 2015 World Cup, and believes Jadeja can be the all-rounder. "Bowling-wise he is quite settled, it's the batting he needs to work on," Dhoni said after the Ranchi win. "He is an excellent fielder. The more games he plays the better he will get. You can already see that the way he batted in Kochi, he has got a lot of confidence out of it.
"Ultimately, he is the player who will play the big shots where he needs to play them, and he is the person who will identify them.
"He has always been a talented cricketer. Personally, I have rated him very highly. At the international level, you need to be confident. As individuals, most of us before playing for India know we are good, but it's the runs you score at the top level that gives you the confidence.
"He is definitely someone who is giving us that balance in the team because we have been struggling, with Irfan (Pathan) the only one we have got as a seam all-rounder. Before the new ODI rules (four fielders outside the circle) came in, we used to rely on Yuvraj (Singh) and a few other part-timers to get rid of those 10 overs. But with the new rule, Yuvi will need a bit more time to settle down. That way, Jadeja is the perfect person to have. We don't want to expose him too much now, in the sense the top order needs to perform and he will only bat at number 7.
"But what we have seen now is glimpses of someone who can really take on the bowler. It doesn't matter whether you are a quick or spinner. He is a good prospect and it is just that we need to keep faith in him."
Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.