In a short space of time, India has gone from being a team staggering towards a quarterfinal exit, to a side sprinting to the finish line, with back-to-back World Cup victories beckoning.
If that glorious finale were to eventuate, Dhoni would join Clive Lloyd and Ricky Ponting as the only World Cup captains to achieve that extremely difficult feat.
'Captain cool' Mahendra Singh Dhoni. AFP PHOTO
Dhoni’s would be the greater achievement because his success has come with less talented bowling attacks than the previous two skippers. A big part of India’s turnaround from a bunch of struggling individuals to an aggressive and consistent combination, has to do with Dhoni’s leadership. In the Test series against Australia, Dhoni performed like a bear hibernating in winter. However, the advent of the World Cup has turned him into a giant grizzly ready to pounce on opponents as though they’re salmon heading upstream.
Dhoni has a couple of admirable attributes as an ODI leader; the players believe in him and he remains as calm as light air. So many times he’s carried India home to victory by keeping his head and hitting judiciously that the team believe Dhoni can indeed perform miracles.
This positive action is a hardto-fathom contrast to some of his Test captaincy. He often appears to be hibernating when dressed in whites and some of his “captain’s pick” selections are without logic. He then exacerbates those selections with his strange use of those choices during the contest.
MSD bats in the nets during their a session in Adelaide. AFP PHOTO
Consequently, his away Test record in recent times resembles a hibernating bear’s larder — empty.
Then, when the World Cup spotlight shines, he’s galvanised into action. His aggressive captaincy is not surprising; brother Greg said when he first came into the Indian side, Dhoni was acutely aware of what was going on and what needed to be done. Greg explained; “If I wanted to know how things were on the field I sought out M S.”
What is harder to fathom is his frustrating periods of inertia as a Test captain. The fact that he’s now retired from the job suggests the workload may have worn him down.
Dhoni’s vibrant leadership at World tournaments is probably best explained by an Indian journalist workmate. “In talking with Dhoni,” he explained, “I’ve noticed he’s acutely aware of his commercial image.”
MS Dhoni lights up the bails as he flips them off the stumps after India defeated the West Indies. REUTERS
There’s no surer way to become a fan favourite in India than to lead the team to a major trophy. The 1983 World Cup winning side is still eulogised after changing India’s perception of one-day cricket by unexpectedly clinching the trophy with an upset win over the powerful West Indies.
The 2015 version of the West Indies is far from powerful but they at least put up a fight against India. This was a contest that a less committed India could easily have lost; a match played on a surface that suited fast bowlers and tested batsmen against the short-pitched delivery. The win at the WACA had Dhoni written all over it.
He not only guided the team home with the bat but it was also a pragmatic win; “let’s just get the two points any way we can and then we don’t have to deal with the WACA anymore”.