PARTAB RAMCHAND | 18 AUGUST, 2020
Small Town Boy Who Made It Big On The International Stage
It is downright impossible to pin down MS Dhoni in a fixed image like one can pin down another great like Rahul Dravid as The Wall. He was Captain Cool, the great finisher, a wicket keeper batsman par excellence, a highly successful leader, a team man supreme and above all a likable character almost always with a ready smile. Yes, he will be remembered for many things but perhaps there is an overall image after all – a small town boy who made it big on the international stage.
There was a considerable period when the leading cricketers came from only the major cities. Slowly that changed but no one has effected that change more dramatically than Dhoni. A young man from Ranchi, then Bihar now Jharkhand to come up to a level where he is recognized as one of the leading cricketers in the contemporary game is straight out of the fiction books. Not too long ago Ranchi had no cricketing tradition to fall back upon. Now despite being the state capital its chief claim to fame is being Dhoni’s hometown.
It cannot be his prodigious talent alone that led to Dhoni’s rapid rise. However gifted he may be a sportsman has to put in the hard yards, raise his fitness levels to international standards and display the kind of temperament that, well Dhoni exhibited over 15 years.
In an era of crass behavior, sledging and obscene gestures, when it has become easy for players to lose their cool at the slightest pretext Dhoni came along as a whiff of fresh air. He really belonged to an earlier generation many years ago when cricket was the gentleman’s game, when players maintained their composure and took everything – success and setbacks – in their stride. Watching Dhoni on the field one always felt like asking ``is he really too good to be true?’’
Whether batting or keeping and particularly while captaining the side in a tense situation Dhoni brought back memories of another outstanding personality – MAK Pataudi who displayed no signs of emotions whatever the provocation.
It is easy to get carried away when a well known and popular cricketer calls it a day. The tributes are full of the great achievements, the outstanding feats and the notable triumphs he has helped shape. The tendency is there to lose balance and go over the top in praising the man. There is very little chance of this happening in Dhoni’s case for he is deserving of the highest plaudits. Simply put what he achieved for India has been beyond the reach of any other cricketer and this is not being said lightly. How many have led India to victory in the T-20 World Cup, the Fifty50 World Cup, the Champions Trophy besides being at the helm when the team climbs to the No 1 spot in the ICC Test rankings for the first time? Dhoni will not only be a shoo-in for the keeper-batsman’s slot in the all time greatest Indian XI, he will be the near unanimous choice as captain. Sure there were setbacks notably the Test defeats in England in 2011 and Australia the following winter and a few disappointments in limited overs cricket but overall the positives far outweigh the negatives.
Dhoni’s feats in front of the stumps and behind them have been well chronicled. His greater exploits in limited overs cricket – especially his enduring image of the great finisher does not camouflage his outstanding contribution in Test matches. One innings would perhaps symbolize this – his commanding 224 against Australia at Chennai in 2013. It was the first game of the series, Australia had led off with 380, India were 196 for four when Dhoni walked in with the match in the balance. He just flayed the Aussie attack all over the place, India ended with 572 and went on to win by eight wickets. The demoralized Aussies never recovered and lost all the four Tests. It was a series defining innings.
Indeed Dhoni’s buccaneering skills with the bat – complete with the famous helicopter shot – tends to put into the shade his brilliant glovework. As a keeper alone he is perhaps the best the country has produced, so quick were his reflexes and so sound his judgement. The most miraculous of catches on both sides of the wicket, the blink and you miss it stumpings and his swift gathering to run out batsmen were all sights that will stay in memory for long.
Yes, the uplifting, invigorating effect of just one player in the side! Dhoni was just that little different from others possessing a special aura about him. On dynamism and entertainment value he was the best thing to happen to Indian cricket in eons. And on results under his leadership he was again the best thing to happen to Indian cricket in eons.
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