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 best fielder in the world 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 one 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. “I get the sense that his teammates would die for him. He is no different to the man I first met in 1999. Very humble, very cool and very honest. Dhoni’s captaincy style is not rocket science. It’s basically based on how a python kills its prey. He waits for the opposition to make a mistake and then squeezes the living breath out of them.” – Dean Jones His batting is much underrated, like Gilchrist and Sangakkara before him he is a genuine batsman and a genuine wicket keeper. 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. Dhoni is one of the greatest ODI “finishers”, those players who arrive with fifteen or twenty overs left and either shepherd or blast their team to victory with great composure, technique and determination. The finisher is arguably the most difficult role in a One Day team, requiring the ability to hit boundaries, turns singles into doubles and to manage changeable situations when wickets collapse. Finishers are a varied bunch usually found batting between numbers five and seven, and for every ferocious hitter in the style of Lance Klusener there has been a controlled and intelligent accumulator in the mould of Australia’s Michael Bevan; but Dhoni is as close to the ideal mix of the two as possible. To date, Dhoni averages just above 51 in ODI’s in225 games, with eight centuries and forty-eight fifties. His averages in One Day cricket have consistently stayed above 40 each year for seven consecutive years, reaching 70 in his best year (2009) and 41 in his worst (2006). It is difficult to pinpoint his finest moment in an amazing ODI career, though leading India to victory with a stunning 91 not out from 79 balls in the World Cup Final against Sri Lanka in 2011 surely ranks among his greatest achievements. But there is competition, with his brilliant 183 not out batting at number three in a victory over the same team in 2005 surely one of the best ODI innings ever.
Many people think Dhoni is lucky and that his record is all down to good fortune. However, no one could be as lucky for a prolonged period of time that he has been playing; therefore 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. His achievements on and off the pitch have made him into a huge icon in World Cricket. Dhoni won ICC ODI player of the year awards in 2008 and 2009, was named the Forbes top-earning cricketer in 2009 and was listed in Time Magazine’s top 100 most influential people in 2011. 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. Dhoni should be remembered in history with the likes of Steve Waugh, Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting and Jacques Kallis. And he deserves it.
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