30 May 2011

Dhoni: From Ticket Collector to Alchemist

Few would have put their money against Dhoni picking up the IPL 4 trophy last week. The man, as they say can simply do no wrong. Under him we've now won both the One day and T20 World cups. We are the No.1 Test team with significant overseas success. Add to that the back to back IPL wins and Champions trophy triumph. He is No.1 on the ICC top ODI batsmen list and is a two time ICC ODI Player of the Year. Sachin thinks he is the best captain ever and the Time magazine just included him in the top 100 most influential people in the world. Endorsing an upwards of 22 brands, he is also the richest cricketer in the world.

The basic upshot you ask? This young lad from Jharkand who once collected railway tickets at the Kharagpur station, is well and truly sitting on the pinnacle of success in modern India.

Dhoni the player
Dhoni is probably the most effective unconventional player ever to have played cricket. His batting technique can be best described as some kind of a hybrid street style which might not have the balance of a Tendulkar, finesse of a Dravid or the panache of a Laxman, but is highly effective. Shots like the Helicopter may not be in the coaching manual but his average in all forms of the game speak volumes for his contribution and consistency. His ability to switch gears at will has become a huge asset for the team, not to mention his habit of delivering at crunch moments. He is the finisher and the all-rounder India had been looking for forever.

While a lot is said about his captaincy and his batting, we often forget that he is exceptional behind the wickets as well. His wicket-keeping, like his batting, is street smart and effective. As an athlete he is one of the fittest guys on the field and one of the fastest runners between the wickets in world cricket.

Dhoni the captain
There is not much here that has not been said already. His performances have earned him the respect of a star studded line-up including players much senior and established than him. His ability to think on his feet and often oblique to the pundits has made him the exceptional captain he is today. Only he can throw the ball to a Jogender Sharma in the last over of a World Cup final, and repeat that by playing Sreesanth for Ashwin in yet another World Cup final and get away with it. As a communicator he is direct and does not mince words. That does not make him an instant hit with some of the ladies I know, but is essential when you are leading a side like India.

Along with being the iceman he is, there is a certain sense of occasion in the guy which is admirable. Remember Ganguly's last test where Dhoni invited him to captain the side for the final day. Or most recently, the champion who deposited the ball in the stands to win ultimate glory for the nation was happily standing in the sidelines while the nation celebrated Sachin.

A few years ago the thought of anybody coming close to Sachin's stature in cricket was ludicrous. At 29 today, Dhoni is not far off from achieving that super stardom. If Ganguly brought us up from the dark ages, Dhoni has taught us to win - and keep winning. Luckily for him and us, he still has some years to go before he hangs his boots, and we are glad. But of course!

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