Does the India captain belong among the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting and Steve Waugh when his career comes to an end?
When people talk about modern cricketing greats of cricket one name is very rarely mentioned. This man is Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Dhoni has seen it all when it comes to Indian cricket, he came into the side as a long haired maverick who smashed every ball to the boundary. At the time it would have been hard to imagine that he would have developed into this great player. Looking back, it could be said that Dhoni was given a job to do and he did it expertly. He was allocated the role of being the aggressive lower order batsman.
The only luck I can find in Dhoni’s story is that he got appointed captain of India so soon after coming into the side. This was mainly down to the fact that Sehwag the then vice-captain had a terrible injury record at the time, Yuvraj and Mohammed Kaif went off the boil. This only really left Dhoni as the player who could do the role. The person who decided to give Dhoni the captaincy needs to be credited with discovering one of the best ever captains in world cricket.
There are not many captains who have Dhoni’s qualities, he is calm and very calculated. He is one player who plays much better under pressure. His knowledge of limited overs cricket is second to none; in a run chase he will time his assault to perfection. When he first comes to the crease he will take ten-fifteen singles before backing himself to get any amount of runs to push the team home. He also knows his players inside out, he also has a knack of knowing which bowler to bowl the pressure overs of a game. A good example of these would be Joginder Sharma bowling the last over in the T20 world cup win and Ishant Sharma being given the last over in the Champions Trophy.
His batting is much underrated, like Gilchrist and Sangakkara before him he is a genuine batsman and a genuine wicketkeeper. He can grind out runs and quickly change the pace of his innings at the drop of his hat, a skill that many top batsmen find hard. These skills mean he could bat at any of the positions in the batting line up.
Many people think Dhoni is lucky and that his record is all down to good fortune. I argue that no one could be as lucky for a prolonged period of time that he has been playing. Therefore I think that he is a special player, he commands respect from all the players and his record has now taken him to be India’s most successful captain. He has one World Cup, one Champions Trophy, one T20 World Cup victory to his name as well as guiding India to world number one in test cricket. He is now in charge of a young Indian side, who look capable of dominating limited overs cricket for the next ten years.
There are many people who dislike Dhoni for various reasons, but I feel that most of his criticism is unjustified. Being from a small town Ranchi, Dhoni has had to work his way into Indian captaincy and stardom the hard way. In my opinion Dhoni will be remembered in history with the likes of Steve Waugh, Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting and Jaques Kallis.
And he deserves it.
image: © Matt Dawson Photography