In the first qualifier, with five down for 62 runs on the scoreboard, and his team staring at an imminent defeat- CSK was still 78 runs away against the most potent bowling side of the tournament to secure a berth in the finals- for a fraction of second the TV cameras caught a glimpse of Chennai Super Kings (CSK) skipper M S Dhoni in the dugout and his wife, Sakshi, in the crowd. Nervousness was writ large on her face, and Dhoni’s team mates looked tense, almost hopeless.
Surprisingly, Dhoni, totally unfazed at the terrible situation his team was in, was seen smiling. However, as the valiant South African skipper Faf du Plessis hit a six to seal the fate of the match, a frenzied crowd erupted and ecstatic team mates sprinted fast into the ground and hugged Faf. A relieved Sakshi was in all smiles. Dhoni’s face lacked any emotion, though.
Change, they say is permanently constant. But, it’s not true in case of MS Dhoni, at least on the cricket field. In his 14 year long glorious cricketing career, and a decade of leading India, it’s difficult to remember one occasion, when this shy and ‘intensely privacy loving’ character, who, by his individual performances and leadership skills has brought his obscure hometown Ranchi to the international cricketing map, looked bothered, lost cool or composure or jumped in jubilations. For him, wins and defeats, are parts and parcels of the game.
How he maintains his cool even in nerve wrecking situations, is indeed baffling. And incomprehensible. Some say, his beards have prematurely turned grey due to pressures of captaincy, but, ask any of his fellow colleagues and they will tell you that he is always calm, cool and composed. Whatever may be the situation.
A trait, that has helped him climb up the Everest of cricketing glory, and write a glorious story, not easy to rewrite for long years to come. And probably, that’s why he is the most successful captain of Indian cricket, whose popularity refuses to wane even after retirement from test cricket. Whichever city-big or small- he is playing in, Dhoni is a darling among the people, as if he belongs to them. And their city.
Very few international cricket captains have achieved what Dhoni has. In Tests his record is very impressive (he is the most successful captain of India) but in the shorter versions, Dhoni’s credentials have no parallels. In June 2013, when India defeated England in the final of the Champions Trophy in England, Dhoni became the first captain to win all three ICC limited-overs trophies (World Cup, Champions Trophy and the World Twenty20). Add to it the CB Series (2007–08), Asia Cup (2010), and the list is goes on. Don’t forget, he has led his IPL franchise Chennai Super Kings (CSK) seven times into the finals and won the trophy thrice including the one last week, in the ten editions of the tournament. And in the process, he has successfully mentored and transformed numerous raw recruits into seasoned professionals.
Few would disagree that as far as man management is concerned, Dhoni is the ultimate. Case in point: last year, Shane Watson, the former Aussie all rounder was rotting within the packed- with- big- names. RCB side. But, this year, once given his own space, position and responsibility in the team by Dhoni, the same Watson, just expressed himself with the ball and more with the willow, tearing apart the opposition attack with two centuries including the one in the finals. Such examples galore.
At 36, Dhoni is physically, as fit as any of his younger colleagues in Team India and considering his reflexes behind the stumps and the agility of his legs on the 22 yards- Dhoni, whether some of his self obsessed critics like it or not- surely has years of Cricket in him. The critics shouldn’t worry much, as the former Indian Railways TTE at Kharagpur , like the numerous unconventional decisions he has taken on the spur of the moment in match after match, and stunned the opponent teams, could stump them, easily with his sterling performance. Rest assured, for that he wouldn’t have to lose his calmness or composure. Or look bothered.