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Skipper & a true leader

cricket Updated: Nov 27, 2008 20:04 IST
Nilankur Das
Nilankur Das
Hindustan Times
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When Mahendra Singh Dhoni offered Sourav Ganguly to take charge for five overs in his last Test in Nagpur, India saluted the young skipper's magnanimity, sportsmanship and his transformation from a representative of the young and rocking India to an ambassador of the gentleman's game.

The gesture touched diehard Dada fans and readied them for a new leader, even mended some hearts broken by Ganguly's final bow and won them over.

Late on Sunday evening when Owais Shah and Andrew Flintoff were threatening to hit England out of troubled waters in Bangalore, Dhoni summoned Zaheer Khan to take charge.

He picked up Shah in the first of the two-over Powerplay chosen by the batting side and went on to return figures of 5-0-20-2, pretty handy for a 50-over match. But in one reduced to 22 overs, the figures were nothing short of phenomenal.

That was not all. Zaheer appeared to have been given the responsibility of handling Munaf Patel and Ishant Sharma, both relatively shorter on experience, and was seen constantly running up to them for a word or two of advice.

Before Ishant started the final over of the third Powerplay, the experienced medium-pacer was seen setting the field for the young Delhi pacer, virtually in the role of a skipper as Dhoni patiently observed proceedings from his position behind the stumps.

Ishant picked up Flintoff in that over, virtually putting an end to England's chances.

Such scenes are unusual in international cricket. But that's Dhoni's way of maximising resources in hours of need. That is also the sign of a skipper, who is confident in his role as a leader and commands respect from the entire team by putting the team's cause ahead of personal egos.

"I was not giving much advice. I like them bowling according to their own plans and if that does not work I ask them to bowl according to my plans. Zaheer has been of great help throughout the series and has taken the extra initiative to help others.

It has worked for us and we should be thankful to him," the skipper said after the match.

The situations under which Dhoni took the backseat in Nagpur and Bangalore were contrasting but at the end of both, India discovered newer facets of a leader, one who seemed to get richer in giving.