There have been instances in the past when the Indian
cricket captain has been the total, complete and absolute leader, the
undisputed master of all he surveyed. The cases of Ajit Wadekar in the early
70s, Sunil Gavaskar in the late 70s and early 80s, Md Azharuddin in the early
and mid 90s and Sourav Ganguly in the early years of the new millennium come
immediately to mind. But no one has been in a more undisputed position than the
Mahendra Singh Dhoni can do no wrong. He can walk on water
or climb Mount Everest without oxygen. The cynics might still say he is lucky
and that he has too many things in his favour. But then don't all successful
captains have more than their share of good fortune? And after all did not
Richie Benaud one of the greatest of all leaders point out that captaincy is
ten percent skill and ninety per cent luck? Without that all-important element
of good fortune even the shrewdest captains have seen their grandiose plans and
elaborate strategies come unstuck.
On the other hand too much must not be made of the luck
factor as far as Dhoni is concerned. Even with everything falling into place
one cannot have Dhoni's record as captain just on this factor alone. He has
notched up too many significant achievements to be called as just another lucky
captain and now of course has come his latest and greatest triumph by way of
bringing back the Fifty50 World Cup to India after 28 years.
The uplifting, invigorating effect of just one player in
the side! He does not have to be of outstanding ability or personality. He
simply needs to be a little different from the others, to possess an aura about
him and he can work wonders. That's what Dhoni has done. On dynamism and
entertainment value he was the best thing to happen to Indian cricket in eons.
And now on results under his leadership he is again the best thing to happen to
Indian cricket in eons.
Clearly the single most impressive factor is Dhoni's
ability to maintain equanimity even under intense pressure. The moves of the
Indian cricket captain are dissected and bisected like nothing else by millions
of fans what with the game enjoying the status of a religion in this country.
But Dhoni through all this has remained 'Captain Cool', never flustered by
happenings on and off the field. In an era when players display their emotions
openly (and in some cases almost vulgarly) Dhoni's calm exterior is perhaps the
most welcome sight in the game.
Dhoni has clearly debunked the age-old cliche that a
captain is only as good as his team. He has always believed that a captain can
transform a team and make things happen. He believes that good, successful
captaincy is all about getting a cricketer to play above his level. After all,
what is a captain if not a motivator? Dhoni has instilled in his team a sense
of self confidence something that he possesses in abundance. The simple fact
that the Indian team won the World Cup without possessing a strong bowling
line-up and with the fielding below the highest international standards best
illustrates this. The ultimate measure is results and on that basis Dhoni the
captain is arguably the best thing to happen to Indian cricket. Even Azharuddin
and Ganguly hitherto the most successful Indian captains did not enjoy this
kind of unbroken run of triumphs.
The Indian captaincy need not be a crown of thorns as
Rahul Dravid made it seem when he resigned in 2007. It all depends on the
captain's attitude and Dhoni's has been refreshingly different. It is palpable
that he is actually enjoying the job even while taking difficult situations and
adverse conditions in his stride. His perennial sunny smile symbolizes his
optimism, his upbeat mood.
Dhoni has spelt out his philosophy many times. He has
always maintained that he wanted his team to enjoy the game. "When you take
the pressure situation of a big game and start worrying about results, it does
affect your performance. So I have told my team not to take any pressure on
themselves,’" he has been quoted as saying. There has been a lot of
self-belief, confidence, commitment and desire shown by the players. They have
dared to be aggressive, backed their instincts and achieved results. Dhoni's
hands-on captaincy has made him an inspiring leader who considers himself first
among equals. Apparently with Dhoni what you see is what you get. He is clearly
the most intuitive captain since Kapil Dev. He himself has said that he goes
more by instinct when it comes to making a decision on the field or in picking
a particular player.
Dhoni's captaincy has been marked by innovative touches
by way of shrewd bowling changes, placing fieldsmen in attacking positions and
the willingness to try something different. Like his batting, his captaincy too
is adventurous and full of surprises. Little wonder then that Sachin Tendulkar
has rated him the best of the captains he has played under. Behind that
perennial smile lurks a wise cricketing brain high on man management skills and
his calm demeanour and "Captain Cool" image are qualities that will continue
to stand him in good stead. He has graduated naturally from the Twenty20
leadership to Fifty50 and to Test captain.
Right now everything Dhoni touches is turning into gold.
He is the Teflon captain so much so that any criticism against his decisions
has been rather muted. However no path can be full of roses and the Indian
captain is bound to come up against the thorns sometime in the future. After
all cricket, like life, can be a great leveler. But given his sunny, positive
attitude, one cannot see Dhoni getting flustered or frustrated. He will take
even such adverse situations in his stride.