The name's Dhoni, MS Dhoni
Remember the impetuous young man that burst onto the scene with a couple of blitzkriegs early in his career? Yeah, MS Dhoni has certainly come a long way from that. Who would have imagined that this long-haired boy from Ranchi would one day, lead India to the pinnacle of all three formats of the sport we so dearly love?
From a young man brash in his stroke play to arguably one of the best cricketing minds in the world, MS Dhoni has evolved over the years to become one of best captains and finishers of the game.
Performing the multiple roles of a captain, batsman and a wicket keeper together can never be easy and it is bound to be stressful. The stress and mental fatigue is probably the reason for the premature salt and pepper look (he does pull it off, though). Throughout the game’s history there have only been a handful of people, who have been able to perform all these roles simultaneously with success and none for as long as Dhoni has.
Dhoni did not have what you would call a “dream debut” in international cricket as he ran himself out first ball. Since then, he has managed to shape a magnificent ODI career for himself. An enviable average of 53.28 coupled with a strike rate of 89.24 is the stuff of legend.
Everybody has his or her opinion on whether Dhoni is the best finisher the game has ever seen. But, he is, beyond a shadow of doubt, one of the best finishers to have graced the game. Michael Clarke once said, “Strike rate of 90+, average of 50+. Stats show that MS Dhoni is the best finisher of the world.” No arguments there, mate!
But what is it that makes him such a good finisher? For starters, he is unbelievably calm under pressure, always unfazed by the occasion or situation (remember the World Cup final?). The second trait is his ability to time the attack to perfection. When Dhoni is at the crease, even with the required rate increasing rapidly, teams cannot afford to relax one bit. They know it is the lull before the storm, they know a foray is coming. Ian Bishop summarised this perfectly when he said, “If 15 runs are needed off the last 6 balls, pressure is on the bowler and not on MS Dhoni.”
MS Dhoni’s leadership skills too, are admirable. He has seldom let emotions get the better of him on the field. This quality of a captain to be calm on the field is very influential and it rubs off on the rest of the players. He has definitely lived up to and justified his nickname of “Captain Cool”.
There are a lot of traits that make Dhoni a great captain. His unorthodoxy certainly helps because sometimes you just have to think out of the box. Dhoni is a brilliant strategist and reads the game very well. Also, his modesty and selflessness make him a good leader, someone the players can look up to. As Sunil Gavaskar put it, “He has got this ability of rising from the ashes. It is his temperament where he has treated those two imposters – fame and failure, in just the same manner.”
The distinction of being the only captain to have won all three ICC limited overs titles, being a two-time recipient of the ICC Player of the Year award and being named in the ICC ODI Team of the Year for six straight years and its captain for four years are a testament to the claim that in limited overs cricket, MS Dhoni has achieved everything under the sun and is one of the best captains of all time.
Not just in international cricket but in franchise cricket as well, Dhoni has been successful both as a captain and a player for the Chennai Super Kings. Two IPL trophies and one trophy at the international stage in the Champions League T20 is no meagre feat. Such is his popularity in Tamil Nadu that they have embraced him as their second favourite adopted son (No idea who the first one is? Mind it!).
In Test cricket, MS Dhoni has an impeccable record at home. It was under his captaincy that India topped the ICC Test rankings for the first time ever in 2009. It is his overseas Test record that has come under scrutiny in the last few years, with former greats criticizing his tactics and branding it as “defensive”. But, the whole fiasco cannot be blamed on Dhoni alone.
The Indian batting has collapsed many a time and until India can produce a quality fast bowler who can spearhead the attack on foreign soil and give the likes of Mitchell Johnson and Dale Steyn a run for their money, India’s overseas record will never be as good as its record at home. Until then, Dhoni will be forced to make a few defensive moves abroad.
Since his career has commenced, Mahi has entertained us all with his own brand of attacking cricket. He has been a tremendous leader and has led by example. He has made a whole country want to emulate his hairstyles and want the number 7 as their jersey number too. He has inspired millions of kids to take up the game of cricket and try and play it his way. However, I doubt their helicopter takes off as well as his.