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'Get Dhoni' is England's series mantra

It's not Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid or VVS Laxman that the England team fear. For them, the key to getting India lies in getting their inspirational captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Sanjjeev Karan Samyal reports.

cricket Updated: Jul 19, 2011 23:16 IST
Sanjjeev Karan Samyal

It's not Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid or VVS Laxman that the England team fear. For them, the key to getting India lies in getting their inspirational captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni. He's going to be their No 1 target and, ace spinner Graeme Swann spelt it out in as many words on Tuesday.

"In Dhoni, India have the most charismatic player they ever had. He is more important than any other player in the side. He's a good captain and leads from the front. He's the key man," said Swann on the eve of the much-awaited series opener at the Lord's Cricket Ground starting on Thursday.

England certainly seem to have got their range right. The talk about this Indian team has always centred around their famed batsmen. While the influence of the star batsmen cannot be discounted, Dhoni has emerged as a colossal figure in Indian cricket with the team touching unthinkable heights under his magical leadership.

Stealthy scorer
The remarkable feature of his game has been the ability to complete a job almost unnoticed; as a result, he has often veered clear of the opposition's radar.

But the influence of Dhoni on the team is not lost on anybody. Without being expressive or overtly aggressive, he's in total control. Nothing exemplifies his influence on the side better than former coach Gary Kirsten's reported statement: 'I would go to war with Dhoni by my side'.

Beating the odds has been the remarkable feature of his leadership. The current series is expected to test the No 1 ranked Test team to the limit. This England side is a formidable foe in any condition; at home they are intimidating. They are the favourites, but Dhoni has added so much steel to his side that Andrew Strauss & Co know it will take some doing to get past them.

What they fear most about Dhoni's team is the ability to wriggle their way out of impossible situations. And Lord's, the venue for the opening Test, will serve as a reminder for Strauss and his men.

Had it not been for Dhoni's heroics, England wouldn't have ended up losing the 2007 series 0-1. The hosts had India on the mat in the opening Test played here, but Dhoni single-handedly fought out a draw with an unbeaten 76, to help his team survive with one wicket in hand.
Being the pillar of strength around which the team revolves, the England think-tank's strategy for this series seems an old one: 'Get the captain, get the team'.

Well, this captain could just prove to be too cool for their comfort.