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Dhoni: The keeper of our faith

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LOOKING UP: Dhoni has managed to mould a group of talented youngsters and experienced seniors into a crack unit

Recently I was on a television show, one of the hundreds that are on air currently, in the build up to the World Cup. The show was called India Maange Cup. The title aptly summed up the aspirations of the Indian fans before every World Cup, since India triumphed in 1983. Since 1983, the demand from the Indian fans of its team has been simple: "Win the World Cup for us. " As far as these fans were concerned, their team had won the Cup in 1983 so their team was good enough to win it every time after that. Simple logic. Now this demand more often than not is based on pure emotion, unadulterated by any cricketing logic. But this time round this emotional cry also has the support of the clinical-minded and the sceptics too.

This is the first time, I believe, that India is going into the World Cup, being strong favourites to win it and it's not only the Indian fans who believe this. There are a few compelling reasons why India is regarded as such a strong contender in this World Cup but I am going to dwell on one - Mahendra Singh Dhoni. All Asian teams that have won the World Cup so far have had an inspirational captain leading them.

Ever since Dhoni took over the leadership role, I have found him to be one of the most fascinating figures in the Indian game. For starters, for someone who comes from a small town, his confidence is unbelievable. His demeanour on the field, leading a young Indian T20 side to triumph, was what attracted all of us to this man. It was easy to see from a distance who the leader of the pack was, just like it was when Imran Khan was leading Pakistan. These guys look like they were born to lead.

But leading a young team, where it's easy to get the commitment and support from most players in the team, is one thing and leading a Test team that had some legendary senior stalwarts is quite another. I think he has handled this tricky business remarkably well. He has maintained almost the perfect balance - he has been respectful to the stalwarts without appearing to becoming their 'yes man. '

In all his interactions with the media - another skill that he has mastered and a skill, which in India, is as important as leading a side on the cricket field - Dhoni has never come across as being disrespectful to his seniors. It is so easy for a young guy like him to get carried away with the phenomenal success that he has had as captain and become arrogant towards his players. And respect is what all senior players deserve. Remember how the Indian team looked edgy under Greg Chappell when he chose to treat seniors differently? That Dhoni has the tacit support of all his seniors is his great accomplishment as well as his big weapon.

Dhoni is a good reader of cricketing conditions and match situations. There is always a very convincing cricketing explanation behind every move of his - something that sometimes only guys who have played this game would understand. Another important quality that he has is that he lets his players be. After reaching a general agreement with the bowler on the field setting and the tactic that would be played out, he generally leaves the bowler alone. In very exceptional circumstances will you see Dhoni walk up to a bowler in between an over to make him bowl differently.

That Dhoni's wicketkeeping has improved by leaps and bounds while being the captain also shows his rare ability to switch on and off. Wicketkeeping is a tough job in the game that needs single-minded focus to carry off without too many mishaps. When Dhoni gets into his crouching position as wicketkeeper, that's what he becomes, a wicketkeeper. He is not a captain anymore till the action of that particular ball is over, after which he is ready to assume the role of captain again. Just imagine - he makes that transition from wicketkeeper to captain and again from captain to wicketkeeper at an average of 300 times in a 50-over game.

Finally, if I have to pick out his greatest gift as captain, it would the fact that he has no illusions of this game. He knows, however influential you are, like in life, in this game too, most things are beyond your control.

WHAT WE'D LIKE TO SEE


A SCORE OF 500 ACHIEVED

Every World Cup has its share of new records. The subcontinent can be the ideal place where a team gets past the 500-mark in ODIs in an innings. Till now, the highest is 443-9 by Sri Lanka against the Netherlands, but given the hitting abilities of some of the sides in the World Cup, 500 may not be an impossible task

WHAT'S ON THE CARDS


11


The number of boundaries Sachin Tendulkar needs to be the first to record 200 in the World Cup. He already holds the record for the maximum fours in World Cup history - 189

WHAT WE'D LIKE TO SEE


AUSTRALIA COLLAPSING AGAINST ENGLAND AFTER PONTING GETS OUT TRYING THE REVERSE SWEEP

No English fan has forgotten that Mike Gatting reverse sweep that brought about their downfall in the 1987 Reliance Cup final. Imagine Australia going the same way against England in a knock-out game as Ponting falls for a reverse sweep. An ideal case of history repeating itself...

WHAT'S ON THE CARDS


445


The record number of ODI games Sachin Tendulkar would have played when he takes the field against Bangladesh at Dhaka on Feb 19. He would be overtaking the former Sri Lankan blaster Sanath Jayasuriya's tally, both of whom have played 444 ODI games each

WHAT WE'D LIKE TO SEE


BANGLADESH MAKING THE SEMIFINALS


Passion for the game hasn't translated into performances for the co-hosts. This is their ideal chance to make it count with a couple of upsets in the league stage and then may be one big show in the quarterfinals can take Bangladesh cricket to a different height

Reader's opinion (4)

Akhil AggarwalMar 1st, 2011 at 16:40 PM

Truly inspiring article depicting a lucid view of the Indian Team. Mr. Cool is the best chance to win a World Cup for 1 billion plus people.

Ashutosh KumarFeb 25th, 2011 at 12:09 PM

MSD is the man for all seasons...

Avinash SharmaFeb 24th, 2011 at 18:18 PM

Xcellent Article...!!

Diptarup KahaliFeb 22nd, 2011 at 23:51 PM

I like always Mr. Manjarekar's views. He has sketched a picture of MSD in his own analytical style and which I totally agree. Even If India cannot win the World Cup, the words of Manjarekar will remain same.

 
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