For all his achievements in Tests and One-dayers, Mahendra Singh Dhoni is every bit Twenty20 cricket’s child. Be it the high of the 2007 World Twenty20 or translating his leadership from nation to club, in the Indian Premier League that was launched in the wake of that South Africa triumph, he has been second to none.
Pretty much like his batting, his thinking too is unorthodox and that is what allows Dhoni’s captaincy skills in the shortest formats to remain as fresh as ever. However, it is also where he has courted controversy, as skipper of Chennai Super Kings, successful and then discredited.
On Monday, Dhoni spoke fondly about his eight years with CSK, which is now suspended, the value players from that disbanded unit commanded in the draft and auctions to underline their consistency and his own expectations of success leading the new Rising Pune Supergiants, after launching its multi-colour team jersey at an event.
Pressure to win
However, Dhoni knows that for the freshness to linger, he must first guide India to their second World Twenty20 triumph. Anything less and the contrast between his success with CSK and India --- after the 2007 win, they did not reach the semi-finals in the next three editions before losing to Sri Lanka in the final in 2014 --- will be highlighted.
With the swirling retirement talk and questions about his closeness to CSK official Gurunath Meiyappan, who was arrested on illegal betting charges in the wake of the 2013 IPL spot-fixing scandal, even the man who insists he lives in the present would seek the feel good factor.
Ahead of the World T20, back-to-back bilateral series wins in Australia and against Sri Lanka have helped build momentum, with the Asia Cup up next in Bangladesh from February 24. Dhoni didn’t agree that performances have not been consistent.
“It is one format where the difference between the opposition is not very big… It is not one team that has consistently won more World Cups than the others,” he said. Different teams have won the five editions so far --- India, Pakistan, England, West Indies and Sri Lanka. “You have to make sure the players are at their peak, everyone is available. Quite a few tournaments we have done well, we have also reached the final.”
The focus will also be on Ajinkya Rahane. Dhoni acknowledged his class but the batsman may not get a place in the eleven once Virat Kohli returns for the Asia Cup, and he will be on standby. “He has not been part of the first eleven. That is also because of the form of Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma. It makes life a bit difficult for the skipper because Rahane, if you take the performance of Indian players in IPL in the last two years, you can place him at one or two.”
For all India’s batting strength, the all-rounders who bat at No 7 or 8 could make the difference in crunch situations. Ravindra Jadeja, Hardik Pandya and uncapped Pawan Negi besides Yuvraj Singh are the all-rounders in the World T20 side. “All-rounders give us the option of playing an extra batsman or bowler. We have got at least three, and cover for everyone. In modern cricket, it’s important the lower order contributes.”