About 1.2 billion fans are celebrating on the streets of Mumbai, Kolkota, Bangalore and rest of the country. Rest of the world may or may not care, but that won't bother the Indian cricket fans as Dhoni and his boys have done what Indian fans have been waiting for 28 long years. The agonizing wait for the fans to see another Indian captain lift the coveted Word Cup trophy was over on April 2nd of 2011 as the golden boy of Indian cricket MS Dhoni showed once for all that he is Captain cool by playing one of the best knocks ever seen in World Cup history. Let it be toss fiasco at start of the match, Mahela's silken strokes, Parera's lusty hitting at end of the innings, Malinga's booming yorkers, Murali's doosra didn't bother captain cool and his teammates.
I have never been known to use the word great easily, but I just take my hat off and salute Dhoni as he has proved beyond doubt that he is a great captain. In a short span of time Dhoni has been able to lift the World T/20, CL, IPL, helped India to be the number one team in test cricket and now has led India to a 50 over WC victory. Yes, it was in the end a team effort that helped the Indian side to win the trophy, but his knock under immense pressure in the final showed that here is a captain, who can lead the team from front and that too at the biggest stage which is the World Cup.
It was about 5 years ago that I first saw Dhoni on a cricket field. Here was a man with long hairs and played weird shots. I thought of him as a powerful, wristy, but a flashy batsman who lacks the technique to succeed for a long-time. When he played a few of those weird wristy shots, it even looked like he wasn't playing a cricketing shot but was piloting a helicopter. How wrong was I as within no time he became an integral part of the side and now has helped India to win the World Cup!
If I look back at Dhoni's career, his first big test perhaps came in England in 2007. India had already bowed out of the 2007 WC in a embarrassing fashion by losing to Bangladesh in the first round itself and question marks were raised over the places of senior players like SRT, Dravid and Ganguly. There were even question marks over whether flashy players like Dhoni, Yuvraj and co. would mature and of course one could even say that critics were keeping an keen eye on how would Dhoni perform as a keeper as well as a batsman in tough conditions in that upcoming tour of England.
To be honest, I thought that Dhoni would be found out in English conditions both as a keeper and as a batsman. Yes, during the tour of England in 07, he may not have come out of that stern test with flying colours, but he did score a vital half century in the first test at Lord's. It can be surely said that rain came to the rescue of the Indian team during that match as the final session on the final day was washed out yet, some credit has to go to Dhoni as his aggressive half century meant that India could keep England's bowlers at bay until the rain came to their rescue. The knock at Lord's showed that Dhoni has got a very good temperament. Since then, Dhoni has gone from strength to strength both as a batsman and as a captain. In 07 itself, he led an young side to a great victory at T/20 championship, under his captaincy, India were able to defeat Australia, England even draw a series away from home in South Africa. Of course, who can forget him leading CSK to victories in IPL and CL and now the biggest prize in one-day cricket, the World Cup.
What makes Dhoni tick?
I have always firmly believed that any captain should have the ability to lead from front. There have been captains who were great tacticians, but in my opinion, a captain can be rated as a good captain not only if he is a good tactician, but he should also lead from the front by doing well as a cricketer. In his career, Dhoni has shown on numerous occasions that he can come good under pressure with a bat in hand or even as a wicket-keeper. His knock in the World Cup final gave ample proof of what a good player Dhoni is under pressure. Early in his innings, Dhoni didn't look at his best against Murali's doosra, but Dhoni wasn't flustered by it as he kept rotating the strike and when the time came, he played the big shots to help India to a famous win. Dhoni's batting technique may look awkward, but there is no doubt that he has the technique to survive, he has got a wide range of shots and more importantly, he has got a very cool head on his shoulders. It can't get better when the wall of India Dravid showers praises on a player by saying that when Dhoni bats, there is always calmness in the dressing room!
There are critics who may point out that in test cricket sometimes Dhoni can get defensive. We saw that in Srilanka last year when there were times Dhoni's captaincy looked negative, but with so many flat wickets being prepared, it can be argued that nowadays hands of a captain are tied and as a result they have to be defensive. India's bowling attack isn't very good either.
What I really like about Dhoni's captaincy is, he backs his instincts. The way he backed a newbie like Joginder Sharma in the final of the T/20 tournament in South Africa was just amazing to watch and of course Sharma won the match for India by taking the last wicket of Misbah. Yes, there have been times when it didn't work like in the match against South Africa in the WC. With Robin Peterson eying to slog it over the mid-wicket region and Nehra mainly looking to bowl into Peterson, it was almost a foregone conclusion that Peterson would smash a six of Nehra. Yes that move backfired yet Dhoni continues to back his instincts which is great to see. His move of selecting Sreesanth for the final didn't work either, though the pitch did suit Sreesanth's style of bowling, but unfortunately for Dhoni, Sree thought that he is the next Jeff Thomson and bowled short.
I really liked it when he moved up the order in the final against Lanka. With Lanka having three off-spinners in the side they would loved to have bowled to Yuvraj and Ghambir as off-spinners prefer to bowl to lefthanders at both ends. The reason being when an off-spinner bowls from around the wicket, the ball will leave a lefthander which makes it difficult for a lefthander to score runs as the opposition captain can block the off-side and force the lefthander to play across the line through the on-side. Yes, unlike Randiv or Dilshan, Murali is unorthodox and has struggled against lefties like Lara, Flower and co. in the past, but both Dilshan and Randiv would loved to have bowled to lefthanders at both ends. By coming in at 5, Dhoni also showed that in a big final he was ready to lead from the front and won't hide behind Yuvraj or Raina. Here is a captain, who has the self belief in his ability and backs his players to the hilt, who in turn respond to it by coming up with match winning performances.
So what next for Dhoni? if not anything else, he would surely like to win more matches away from home, especially couple of tough tours coming up in the Old Blighty and one in Australia. I am sure Dhoni isn't a man, who will like to rest on his laurels, but would look at winning more matches for India with his batting, keeping and of course his captaincy.