Sunday, February 1, 2015

MS Dhoni, the best and cool finisher

As the World Cup countdown enters its final stretch, here's an analyses of MS Dhoni, the captain, in whose hands the team's fate rests.
MS Dhoni's composure has helped him orchestrate big chases
MS Dhoni's composure has helped him orchestrate big chases 
 
As the ball soared into the starlit sky, an eerie silence descended over the ecstatic Wankhede Stadium; Mahendra Singh Dhoni simply followed its rising trajectory, almost bereft of emotion, until the entire country erupted in joy.
Only when Yuvraj Singh came dashing into his arms, the India captain broke into a sheepish grin; as stoically, he turned towards the stumps and picked up one before being whisked away on shoulders by his delirious teammates once he lofted a Nuwan Kulasekara delivery over long-on and won back India the World Cup after 28 years.
For a long time, the same sang froid was the hallmark of his game and his personality: he was hailed as ice cold during high-pressure moments; no nerves, some proclaimed, as he orchestrated big chases. Captain cool, others said, as he led the side in his own unpredictable manner. In many ways, Dhoni has surpassed the skill at his command as a batsman. In many ways, he has also scripted victories that look impossible in hindsight: the World T20 title on his debut as captain, the No 1 Test ranking for 18 months, the Champions Trophy and of course, the World Cup.
He couldn't have asked for more. Especially as, at one point, it looked like he was destined to live as a railway ticket collector; or maybe, even go back to the backwoods of Jharkhand and lead an obscure, anonymous life. But then, everything was poised to change as he began hitting those big sixes, playing in the industrial town of Kharagpur in Bengal.
Born in Ranchi, in July 1981, little Dhoni began to idolise the three legends of that time: Sachin Tendulkar, Amitabh Bachchan and Lata Mangeshkar; he was good at badminton and football but his coach, impressed by his goalkeeping skills, sent him to play cricket.
He worked his way up, playing all age-group tournaments as a wicketkeeper who could bat a bit. As an 18-year-old, he made his debut for Bihar in the Ranji Trophy. Folklore has it that in his off time, Dhoni would whizz around on a second-hand bike, worth all of Rs 4500, while he played tennis-ball cricket.
Yet, Dhoni remained under the radar till he was picked for the India A side in 2004 as selectors looked beyond the traditional cricket pockets for talent; he promptly slammed two centuries in the one-day triangular series in Nairobi to showcase himself. With flowing hair, a fearless attitude and a wider smile, he compelled attention.
Two spectacular knocks for Team India - 148 vs Pakistan in Vizag and 183 vs Sri Lanka in Jaipur ensured that he emerged as the rock star of the game. His technique was flawed, both, in front and behind the wickets, but he turned it into his strength.
As he became larger than life, the pressure however slowly got to him; he turned aloof and reclusive as a person, cautious and careful as a captain and a lot more circumspect as a batsman. His reputation as the ultimate finisher, however, remained undiminished.
He became an unstoppable force after joining Chennai Super Kings, rising to become the most powerful cricketer in the country. The first chinks, however, began to surface in Test cricket, as India failed to cope with their demands and rigours. As the team underwent a generational change, he became fallible.
In a surprising move, he even gave up Test captaincy. Like everything he does, there was a plan behind it: the World Cup. Dhoni knows he will become a hero forever if he guides India to another triumph. However, it may not be a fairy-tale ending.
India have been struggling in Australia, failing to even make the finals of the tri-series. The batting doesn't look solid and the bowling doesn't is far from instilling confidence. He will have to do something really special to lift the side from here. It is possible only if he leads from the front, batting like only he can. One good knock, up the order, can infuse life into this side and make it look totally different. If anybody can do it, it's Dhoni.

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