Now that MS Dhoni has made it clear that he would like to continue to lead the Indian team in all formats of the game any talk of Virat Kohli or anyone else succeeding him in the near future should cease.
We should all put our weight together behind Dhoni as he strives for his immediate objectives – to retain the World Cup in 2015 and put India back on top in the Test rankings.
Indeed I sometimes wonder in an over emotion filled country likes ours when it comes to cricket whether Dhoni has received due credit for his manifold achievements. Sure, there have been setbacks but then ups and downs are part of any sportsman’s career.
But in Dhoni’s case the plus points are outweigh the minus points in the balance sheet and he should be given a free hand to chart out Indian’s cricket progress over the next few years.
From a long haired youngster bristling with talent to a youth icon to elder statesman it has been quite an eventful road for Dhoni. Emerging from a small town and a state with no cricketing pretensions it was unthinkable for Dhoni to rise so fast in the hierarchy particularly with so many seniors around.
That he made it to the top despite certain obvious disadvantages is a tribute to his on field performances, his charismatic personality and his image of ``Captain Cool’’. The selectors too deserve all accolades for backing him as the person who could lift Indian cricket to new heights which he did silencing even the most unreasonable cynic.
The triumphs associated with Dhoni’s name cannot just be shrugged away. A famous victory in the inaugural T-20 World Cup, an even more famous triumph in the Fifty50 World Cup, winning the Champions Trophy outright for the first time last year and the rise for the first time of the Test team to the No 1 rankings are achievements that seemed beyond our players.
Dhoni deserves all credit for making the cricketers believe in themselves while proving himself to be shrewdly imaginative captain. He is not given to histrionics on the field, is understated in his statements and controlled in his behavior which is why in some circles he has not been given his due. ``He has been lucky’’ say the critics but then so much success cannot be achieved just on the basis of good fortune.
Dhoni’s detractors are quick to point out to the 4-0 drubbings at the hands of England and Australia in the 2011-2012 period and the fact that India have lost nine of the last ten Tests it has played abroad.
If Dhoni is given credit for the many achievements listed he should get the flak for these defeats. But a little bit of balance is required here for under Dhoni India squared a Test series in South Africa for the first time in five visits and won a contest in New Zealand after 41 years. I am not even counting lesser feats like the victory in the West Indies in 2011 and the squared series in Sri Lanka the year before.
No other Indian captain, not even Sourav Ganguly can boast of so many accomplishments and at the age of 32 Dhoni has it in him to notch up even more notable triumphs. And indeed this year could present the greatest challenge for India are touring New Zealand, England and Australia.
Given his anything but impressive away record both as captain and particularly as batsman this is the opportunity for him to set it right. Of course there is also the small matter of the T-20 World Cup in Bangladesh.
It is also a tribute to his persona that despite so much success, adulation and being the centre of attraction Dhoni hasn’t changed much on or off the field and remains down to earth. I have marvelled at his on field composure when even under intense pressure and scrutiny.
At a time when players’ behavior has touched an all time low, when cricketers make all sorts of unacceptable gestures Dhoni remains the one figure of sanity. In this aspect he certainly belongs to an earlier generation when players kept their emotions under check and remained calm whatever the provocation. Whether India are doing well on the field or not Dhoni is the picture of restraint.
That is why even after he retires and whatever his future achievements the overall image he will always carry will be that of ``Captain Cool.’’. It certainly fits him best.
It is the same off the field particularly in his interactions with the media. I have interviewed every Indian captain since MAK Pataudi and in the last few years I have observed press conferences on TV. Dhoni has the knack of saying the right thing, is polite and never monosyllable.
Even the other day in New Delhi when pressed on the subject he was honest in saying that he was not averse to the idea of continuing as captain in all three formats. This was important for there is a school of thought that feels that Kohli could take over at least in T-20 cricket but Dhoni was frank enough to say that it would be unfair to name a new captain and burden him with the responsibility with the 2015 World Cup just over a year away.
He was also straightforward in analysing the defeat in South Africa and did not shy away from his responsibility.
Till a few years ago it would have been unthinkable for an Indian player to bag more ad contracts than Sachin Tendulkar.
But Dhoni who is a sponsor’s dream has superseded the legend in the popularity stakes and now has the field open to himself to go in for greener pastures. 2014 could well be the year Dhoni’s captaincy and personality touches new heights.