PARTAB RAMCHAND | 20 MAY, 2018
Sometimes one marvels at Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Here he is just a couple of months shy of his 37th birthday, he has been around the international circuit since 2004 and yet he retains a boyish enthusiasm for the game.
Sure he retired from Test cricket midway through the 2014-15 tour of Australia but whatever his impressive record in cricket’s traditional format his game was always tailor made for the limited overs game. His record in ODI’s is one of the best for an Indian player given the fact that he has also been captain and wicket keeper over a considerable period and the advent of T-20 cricket only augmented his skills.
Whether it is T-20 internationals or the IPL Dhoni continues to entertain with his inimitable brand of cricket even as his prowess in ODI’s remains undiminished.
Barring any unfortunate circumstances Dhoni should be around representing India in the 2019 World Cup in England. It will be his fourth such tournament a feat not many Indians have achieved. And one is sure that at almost 38 he will not be around to make up the numbers but will contribute substantially to India’s bid to regain the trophy.
As a cricketer becomes older it is but natural that there will be a change in his approach. The benefits of vast experience are a positive aspect but then the reflexes are not the same and this more than anything necessitates the change. This may involve taking less risk while batting and taking a longer time in getting the runs.
Dhoni too has changed his approach but that has not in any way diminished his image as ``the great finisher’’. He may leave it just that much late when it comes to chasing a stiff target but in the end the objective is achieved through Dhoni pacing the innings like only he can. The ongoing IPL has been a case in point. He has repeatedly steered Chennai Super Kings to either a competitive total or a seemingly impossible victory chase with batting that while retaining the big hits with which his name will forever be linked is also tactically sound.
At the crease Dhoni is well in control of the proceedings and is fully aware what is to be done. With the ideal blend of hitting the ball into the night sky and timing and placing his boundaries along the ground and looking for the singles and twos he is the master of the situation.
Perhaps it is nothing new for Dhoni has been doing it for years in the two limited overs formats but these days he makes sure that he brings all his experience into play. A cool head and a shrewd cricketing brain sit atop that compactly built frame. Dhoni has strong arms and shoulders and makes the most of it. The ``helicopter shot’’ would not have been possible but for the arms and shoulders working in unison in pulling it off repeatedly. As he himself said the other day ``my back is giving me trouble. But God has given me the power. I don’t need to use the back a lot. The hands can do the job.’’
Yes, perhaps Virat Kohli has replaced Dhoni as the no 1 name in the game in the country – but only just. Dhoni still retains his charisma as a cricketer, his rapport with the spectators is something else and he is highly respected as a person whose achievements are already written in letters of platinum. Much has also been written about his impeccable on field demeanor which stands out amidst the boorish behavior seen these days. Not for him the crass, obscene gestures; he conducts himself with utmost dignity.And even as he has emerged as Indian cricket’s elder statesman he has magically retained the image of a youth icon.
Though hailing from Jharkhand his name as far as the IPL is concerned is indissolubly linked with Chennai Super Kings. In the metropolis he enjoys unprecedented popularity and is revered as ``thalaiva’’ (leader). When he goes out to bat and as long as he is at the crease the crowd and the TV viewers have eyes only for him as they keep chanting his name. But then of course as far as Indian cricket is concerned this scenario is repeated all over the country. Oh yes, despite the rise of Kohli Dhoni’s is not a supporting role. The two perhaps deserve joint billing on the marquee boards which is quite remarkable considering the fact that Dhoni has been around since December 2004.
As he approaches the 10,000 run mark in ODIs – he is just 33 runs short of the mark – it is gratifying to note from Indian cricket’s viewpoint that Dhoni still has a lot to contribute. He is still remarkably fit and agile - in running between wickets the youngest member of the team would find it difficult to keep pace with Dhoni – and his enthusiasm is boundless.
The way things are going it would not be surprising to see him around even after the 2019 World Cup.