MS Dhoni is considered as the man with the Midas touch or captain extraordinaire.
He has come a long way since he made his ODI debut in December 2004. As an Indian captain he has achieved everything there is to achieve. The victory in the inaugural edition of the T20 WC, the number 1 ranking in Tests in 2009, the ODI World Cup in 2011 and the Champions Trophy in 2013, he has all these accomplishments in his CV in a glittering career as captain of India.
He is cool, calm, collected, unruffled and unflappable under pressure (forgive me for giving in to hyperbole). Commentators used to say of the great Bjorn Borg that you couldn’t tell from his countenance whether he was winning or losing. The same is true of MS Dhoni.
Players tend to respond better to someone who has a calm demeanour than one who blows his top and reads his players the riot act every time they fail to perform. He is already a part of Indian cricketing folklore.
He is not only a special talent with the bat but also great with the media and has excellent man management skills. In addition to this, he has a gambler’s instinct and is not afraid to take risks and go where no man has trodden before. At the same time he respects his seniors as was evident in the fact when he handed Ganguly the reins for a short time during his last Test as a player.
He has his share of detractors and critics who call him lucky and defensive, that he lacks technical nous as a captain and one who often lets the game drift in Test cricket.
But in these days of heavy bats and shortened boundaries, almost all modern day captains are called defensive by the pundits of yesteryear. There are those doubting Thomases who say that he is only building on the foundation laid down by his predecessor Sourav Ganguly. And to be fair, they have a point.
But this article is not about comparisons. In a country of 1.2 billion people it is not easy to please everybody and be liked by everyone. It is to let people know if they don’t already, that who we have is someone special. To captain the Indian cricket team is probably the toughest job in world cricket. It requires a thick skin and the ability to withstand severe criticism.
As far as his batting in ODIs goes, he is regarded as the best finisher in the game today and is mentioned in the same breath as Michael Bevan. There is no doubt that he is India’s greatest ODI batsman after Sachin Tendulkar.
Let us investigate the 3 main criticisms of MS Dhoni.
1) They say that his batting in Tests is not up to the mark, especially in overseas conditions. Out of the 34 people who have kept wickets for India in Tests, he has a batting average 6 points clear of the next best, for whoever has played more than 3 Tests.
Even in away conditions he averages more than any Indian wicket-keeper who has played more than a solitary Test.
Out of the 254 players who have kept wickets from all the Test playing nations, his batting average is sixth best (a minimum cutoff of 16 Tests). One of them is the peerless Adam Gilchrist, while two others are Kumar Sangakkara and Andy Flower, who are both top order batsmen who gave up keeping after a short while.
Even during the tour of England in 2011, he averaged the most after Dravid and Tendulkar among batsmen who played all 4 Tests. So that’s a myth put to rest.
2) There are some Indians who feel that his wicket-keeping is average and to be fair, he did have problems with his keeping in England where the ball moved prodigiously after passing the batsman.
Others say that he is not as technically correct as Mongia, Kirmani and Engineer. That is true, but he is solid and dependable and rarely drops a catch. A keeper need not be flamboyant but needs to latch on every opportunity.
Without any doubt, he’s got one of the fastest pair of hands behind the wicket in the world today and is one of the quickest keeper when it comes to affecting stumpings.
3) The last criticism and perhaps the one with the most merit, is his captaincy, especially in overseas conditions.
He was the captain in both the disastrous overseas tours of England and Australia and was in control of the team in 7 of the 8 consecutive Tests that India lost, but the fact remains that it was a collective failure wherein the team didn’t perform as a unit due to the shambolic performance of both the batsmen and bowlers.
While considering his losses, it must also be noted that he has the record of the most Test wins as skipper of India, 24(3 more than Ganguly) and has done it in 2 fewer Tests. Again, it is the team effort which won them the matches, Dhoni too contributed.
The enormity of his task can be gauged by the fact that after his current record of 47 matches played as a wicket-keeper captain, the 2nd highest number of Tests in which a wicketkeeper has led his country is 18 by FCM Alexander back in 1958-60.
Even overseas he has the 2nd most wins as captain along with Rahul Dravid (5) and behind Sourav Ganguly who has 11 to his name. But when wins against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe are excluded, he is just 1 Test win behind Ganguly.
Enough of these comparisons. Let us salute a genius called Mahendra Singh Dhoni.