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The ways and means of Dhoni, Clarke, De Villiers and McCullum

And then there were four: Brendon McCullum, AB de Villiers, Michael Clarke and MS Dhoni. The four have marshalled their warriors to the cricket World Cup semi-finals, displaying leadership traits that are different yet similar enough in being effective.

WorldCup2015 Updated: Mar 24, 2015 01:20 IST
Abhimanyu Kulkarni
Abhimanyu Kulkarni
Hindustan Times
Brendon McCullum,AB de Villiers,Michael Clarke

I am more afraid of an army of 100 sheep led by a lion than an army of 100 lions led by a sheep - Charles Maurice de Talleyrand

And then there were four: Brendon McCullum, AB de Villiers, Michael Clarke and MS Dhoni.

The four have marshalled their warriors to the cricket World Cup semi-finals, displaying leadership traits that are different yet similar enough in being effective.

Here is a look at the unique ways in which the four lead:

Brendon McCullum

McCullum's captaincy is as explosive as his batting. There are no half measures with him. He makes decisions on the spur of the moment and is not shy of taking responsibility in case they fail.

New Zealand are the only team to have taken a review within the first 10 overs in all their matches. They are no longer content to be the good boys who punch above their weight and then make way. This is an ambitious team and you can hear it in the voice of former players.

McCullum is more than open to aggressive field settings and goes for wickets. If there is a defensive bone in his body, he is masking it well at the moment.

Watching McCullum field reminds one of that school kid overeager to stop every ball. He isn't shy of running from one end of the field to the other just to back his fielder and save an extra run.

There is little likelihood of him changing the template against South Africa on Tuesday. "The way we've been playing has been obviously a pretty exciting brand of cricket… Just because it's a pressure game we shouldn't change that. It's our greatest chance of success. That's our most authentic style of cricket and I wouldn't think that will change tomorrow," he said on the eve of the semi-final.

AB de Villiers

AB de Villiers has had enough of the C-word and humble platitudes that passes off as cricketing views these days.

After the losses to India and Pakistan in the group stage, he raised the aggression quite a few notches, saying he believes his team is the best in the tournament.

Whether this puts more pressure on his men to deliver or not, De Villiers has chosen to go all out the way he can. Well, he can afford to because he is among the most feared batsmen, electric in the field and has also been rolling his arm over this World Cup.

He is the known X-factor in the team blessed with fast bowling riches.

Because of his ability, the 31-year-old he steps up every time the team is in trouble. He came into the tournament as top-ranked ODI batsman and his determination to get rid of the 'chokers' tag seems to have rubbed off on the team.

South Africa ended a knockout jinx with the quarterfinal win against Sri Lanka. A final spot beckons.

"There has been a lot of emphasis on our past and South Africa not doing well at World Cups. We don't mind that too much.

"I have gone through the whole package of emotions, fighting it, accepting it, then fighting it again. I honestly am not putting emphasis on that at all.

"I know the squad is in a really good space and I am going to say it again... we know if we play a good game of cricket we will come out on top," he said ahead of the semi-final against New Zealand.

Michael Clarke

The most tactical of the four captains, Michael Clarke's decisions appear based on logic and reason. He has been facing criticism over his form after coming back from injury midway into the tournament, but that has not affected his decisions on the field.

His decision to drop Shane Watson turned out to be a masterstroke, with the all-rounder coming back strong. Slowly but steadily the Australian juggernaut is picking pace.

The skipper has not shone with the bat, but Australia's overall batting prowess and bowling firepower have held them in good stead.

Moreover, Clarke is not alien to the big stage. He played a stellar role in Australia's 2007 World Cup-winning campaign.

McCullum has openly admitted to being in awe of Clarke for the manner in which the Australian skipper coped with the death of team-mate and close friend Phillip Hughes.

"I think we saw during the tragic circumstances around Phil Hughes' passing how strong a leader he (Clarke) is and the way that he carried himself and the way that he spoke on behalf of the team," McCullum said before his team's World Cup clash with Australia.

Don't read too much into Clarke giving a shout out to Australians to paint the Sydney Cricket Ground gold on March 26 because Indians are believed to have bought 70% of the tickets for the semi-final clash.

MS Dhoni

Mahendra Singh Dhoni's captain cool fame has come on the might of performances over the years. He has a great cricketing mind, yet backs his instincts at critical junctures.

Giving Joginder Sharma the final over in the T20 final in 2007, promoting himself up the batting order over the in-form Yuvraj Singh in the 2011 World Cup final are some of Dhoni's decisions which baffled all, but worked wonders.

Most cricket pundits had dismissed India's chances after their dismal performance in the Australia tour preceding the World Cup. But India's pacers are firing, the spinners are strangling, the openers are providing starts, the middle order is contributing and all of this is making Dhoni look good.

With the cogs falling into place, India are getting results that are throwing up statistical delights such as 70 wickets in 7 matches.

It is to India's credit that Australia are playing mind games. They always do, but Dhoni has been there, heard it all and done that.

(With inputs from Agencies)

First Published: Mar 23, 2015 19:30 IST