Two Good Dhoni

Mahendra Singh Dhoni has put out a DND (do not disturb) message on his Twitter account, though I am not too sure how many people are going to respect it.

There is an old story about Dhoni that he is really not fond of playing in the West Indies. Whether it is the time difference or something else is not clear, but even during the tri-series, Dhoni had kind of ‘retired’ halfway through the first match.

When the Board of Control for Cricket in India sent a press release two weeks ago that Captain Magnificent was going to take a break due to injury, it seemed hard to believe. In the normal course, anyone dealing with a hamstring injury would have given his body full rest and recuperation.

Not Dhoni, who despite missing three matches, decided to show he was going to muscle out the Sri Lankans in a final which seemed going the other way till the last over.

There are finishers before Dhoni who have caught the eye with their own style of finishing a match. While a batsman like Michael Bevan was clinical in his approach when he finished matches for Australia, Dhoni has been brutal. The sheer weight of his 2kg bat has been the talking point, as even people like Sachin Tendulkar who prefer a ‘heavy’ bat use one lighter by half a kilogram.

In the good old days, when batsmen like Gordon Greenidge and Clive Lloyd wielded the willow with disdain, bowlers feared where they would tonk the ball.

In Dhoni’s case, one really cannot calculate where he is going to smash the white ball in ODI cricket. Match after match, Dhoni has shown he is a master of the close finishes, be it while playing for Chennai Super Kings in the Indian Premier League or ODIs.

Frankly speaking, had it been any other cricketer battling an injury, he would have decided to return home and watch the action on television.

The world of cricket knows it is hard to keep Dhoni away from the thick of action, which is why he decided to stay back in the West Indies. It is this insatiable appetite for success that helped us see Dhoni play the role of The Terminator just after the high of winning the Champions Trophy.

Today, nobody is talking about the risks which Dhoni took when he played the final. I have seen time and again, tennis players risk injuries and step on court as given the hectic schedules, a break is a rarity. But for cricketers like Dhoni who are worth millions of dollars from head to toe, to disregard injury and play was a bold decision resulting in a beautiful finish.

His own batting apart, the Dhoni I know as the master captain of Team India is a revelation. It seems just like yesterday he had finished the final against Sri Lanka in the ICC World Cup final and slinked away from the pop of flash bulbs. Twenty seven months hence, Dhoni has changed so much in this team.

The seniors have been quietly phased out like ageing airplanes and someone like Yuvraj Singh, who was given the chance to blossom in 2011 is now no longer part of Dhoni’s scheme of things.

Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, young and energetic bowlers like Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma and spinners Ravindra Jadeja and R. Ashwin now are the skipper’s trump cards in varying playing conditions.

What is worth raving about is the way Dhoni has pressed for changes in his own way and impressed on selectors to listen to him. Today, there are a few whispers in the corridors of power that selection committee chairman Sandeep Patil took the big decisions! As paid selectors, it is their job to pick the best men for the task and they would have been told clearly by the skipper what he wants. When N. Srinivasan was in command, he was condemned for planning with Dhoni. Now that Srinivasan is on the sidelines, Dhoni knows he is under more intense scrutiny.

When Team India left for the Champions Trophy, media ran reports on Dhoni’s varying business interests and how he had piled up the moolah.

And now that Dhoni is going to take a holiday, I wonder what people gunning for him are going to do — send him a questionnaire on his business holdings or celebrate him for two title wins abroad? Indeed, cricket makes our vision short-sighted at times and we tend to forget the follies of the man now being hailed as Magnificent Mahi. When the brash man was at the receiving end for losses abroad in Tests, he kept quiet.

Dhoni has embarked on the task of building the team for the 2015 World Cup quietly. I would now like to see the skipper bring in the same self belief in the Test squad which faces its first big test in South Africa. If he is able to do that even partially, there is nothing much else left for the cerebral skipper to achieve.


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