October 24, 2008

Dhoni: The Toughest not The Luckiest


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

I can’t agree with the theory that Mahendra Singh Dhoni is a lucky guy as some people are portraying him after India’s fabulous win over Australia in the second Test at Mohali where he got the opportunity to lead his country in the absence of regular skipper Anil Kumble, who failed to pass the fitness test.

Rather I am convinced that Dhoni is the toughest person around. He is one of those persons who believe in making their own luck. Having watched him play and conduct himself in and outside the arena over the last few years there is no doubt in one’s mind about him being extraordinarily gifted and immensely talented.

Leading the Indian cricket team has been the toughest of propositions for cricketers as great as Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev, Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid. They featured among the all-time greats but neither of them could prove to be a successful captain. There were a combination of factors that didn’t allow them to lead by example and hence the desired results could not be achieved.

It’s different with Dhoni. He has proved himself the tough guy in the field in the limited opportunities that have come his way so far. He won the Twenty20 World Cup for India. He captained India to victory in the three-nation ODI series in Australia earlier this year against heavy odds.

He has so far led India in only two Test matches and his country emerged victorious on both occasions. It’s not fluke. Dhoni has to get the credit for delivering even while doing the job on a temporary job. It’s not at all easy to be motivated in such circumstances. But he has done it to prove the point that he considers problems as opportunities.

The champion wicketkeeper-batsman has shown that he has the rare ability of withstanding the pressures of all kinds. Leading India at home is probably more difficult because of the high expectations that grip the cricket-crazy country.

He was the man who created the window of opportunity for India at Mohali and made sure that the mission was accomplished with precision. The result was a massive win for the home side on a track that was good for batting even on the fifth day.

The Australians were still in the game when night watchman Ishant Sharma was dismissed early on the second morning. A couple of more wickets with the second new ball hard and shining at that stage and the hosts would have struggled to reach a total of 350.

Enter Dhoni and he took the game away from the Aussies with his aggressive display. His hooking was imperious and productive. It sent the message across quickly that he had a plan to unsettle the opponents. He was unlucky to be dismissed in the nineties but his attacking knock had done the damage.

The Australians, who believe in dominating, could not recover from the shock of getting dominated themselves. Their batting was blown away like house of cards and India moved in to push the issue beyond doubt.

Dhoni’s decision to promote himself to number three in the second innings was another masterstroke. His unbeaten 68 ensured that India put on the board the runs they needed in quick time to leave ample time for their own bowlers to complete the rout.

Aggression is not only word in his dictionary. He also has more than enough patience that makes him an outstanding captain. That’s why he is more likely to succeed than not in Test cricket after having proved his mettle in the shorter versions of the game.

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