Mahendra Singh Dhoni arrived in Indian cricket as a breath of fresh air in 2004-05. Not a product of any finishing school, his see-it-hit-it approach, the ability to muscle his way against bowling attacks and a cool temperament won him a legion of fans. Having captained India to the inaugural World T20 title in 2007, he piled on the numbers in front and behind the stumps before taking charge of the national team in all three formats.
The India cricket captain is one of the most visible personalities in the country, and Dhoni took the limelight in his stride to start with. Wicketkeepers had a poor record as skippers internationally, but he overcame that too. But his image of a self-effacing cricketer and a leading light in Indian cricket, as far as players emerging from the hinterland were concerned, began to wear off once he established himself as skipper in all formats.
The attitude change has led to a series of controversies and confrontations with the media. It has coincided with Dhoni's rise as one of the wealthiest Indian cricketers and among the most marketable. That has brought forth a fair bit of intolerance when faced with criticism.
Breaking the norm
In Brisbane, it was the skipper who junked the convention of not making public what happens in the dressing room , announcing that there had been 'unrest'. Not once but twice after the second Test defeat, he firmly drew the media's attention to the fact that there was upheaval as India batsmen caved in on Day 4.
Hindustan Times revealed that old friends Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli had a go at each other while the batting was unraveling. However, two days later, Dhoni had made a U-turn, dismissing the report as a figment of imagination , even trashing it as a comic Hollywood mix. It wasn't the first time the India skipper was contradicting his own comments.
On the last tour of Australia, Dhoni said the seniors needed to be rotated because they were too slow on the vast outfields. When Virender Sehwag, who responded with a brilliant catch, rejected that perception, Dhoni blamed the media for searching for a rift in the camp. The BCCI bosses though asked coach Duncan Fletcher to help cool things between Dhoni and the seniors.
Dhoni has been on the defensive over his links with Rhiti Sports. The sports management company run by his close friend Arun Pandey not just handles Dhoni but also other India and CSK players. He has also been sucked into similar questions which plague N Srinivasan. Dhoni's position as vice-president of India Cements, the CSK owners, has not helped matters.
Experts believe India desperately needs an injection of fresh Test leadership. Thus, introspection won't hurt Dhoni, seen as defensive and unimaginative when things get tough overseas in the longest format.