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The captaincy of Mahendra Singh Dhoni

Dhoni - no locksIndia won the world cup 2011 in a memorable match on April 2 at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. It was an emotional moment for the players, the support staff and everyone watching inside and outside the stadium. Sri Lanka won the toss and elected to bat and made the statistics stack even more against India. Only 2 out of 9 world cup finals were won by the country chasing a score. Never has the host country won the world cup. The Dhoni brigade defied both the statistics and proved the numbers wrong. All through the world cup I have always referred to team India as Dhoni brigade as I think the resurgence of India as a cricket superpower after the disastrous world cup showing in 2007 is part due to Dhoni’s leadership and part Gary Kirsten’s coaching. Team India was always known as a team of individual star performers and drama players. Dhoni’s leadership has shown us how to lead and how to play as a team. Sachin paid the highest tribute by saying that Dhoni is the best captain he has played under. Seeing team India play in quarters, semis and the finals reminded me of Australians under Steve Waugh. Well, I could see a lot more in Dhoni than Steve Waugh, here’s my list.

Mr Patrick Jane of Mentalist - Like the protagonist of my favorite serial The Mentalist, the plain speaking captain does not mince his words and says exactly what he sees. He has a similar analytical and logical bent as Jane. He thinks for the team, thinks outside the box and his decisions are very logical. His post match interviews gives a brilliant insight into the absolute logic of the man’s decisions. After his public chiding of his batsmen to stop playing for the crowds and start playing to win, saw a sudden reduction in ridiculous loose shots. The number of sixers by the team reduced drastically. Even in the euphoria of winning the world cup the leader didn’t forget to remind Gautum to remember to play it for winning instead of trying for a spectacular 4 to complete the century.

Dhoni - long locksCaptain Cool -  Captain Dhoni is cool in every way. Cool as in stylish cool as well as cool as in iceman cool under pressure. He has a calming presence on the team. Many a times after a controversial call, one can hear the wicket keeper Captain tell his team “Jaane De” or let it go. The toss was first won by Dhoni but due to the hearing loss of umpires there was another toss and Lankans won the toss. You couldn’t tell a thing from Dhoni’s face if this perturbed him. His knock of 91 not out exemplifies the iceman under pressure. As for the other cool as in stylish, the man looks good in long locks and with no locks.

Dhoni at awards ceremonyMr Edison  - experiment  and learn
Dhoni used the pre-knock out matches to think out side the box then experiment what worked and what did not for the team and used it during the knock out matches. And boy, were our knock outs tough or what ; both against stalwarts like the mighty Aussies and our long term rivals the Pakis. His decision to use Nehra against SA gave him the necessary  practice that served us well against Pakistan. If he hadn’t been injured, Nehra would have served better than Sreesanth. Dhoni tried to call in the powerplay before the final overs to see if it gave additional slog overs, but in both the instances the powerplay had the opposite effect with us loosing wickets. In the finals, Mr Edison having learned the lesson, didn’t call in the powerplay.

Mr. Servant Leader - I can’t say enough about this servant leader. I know this is the “in thing” in leadership style, but the man shows it in his actions. Yuvi has a problem against spinners, and Dhoni coming in early before UV was very good for the team and protective for Yuvi. We had Yuvi to face the pacers in the final overs. The whole stadium was praying Malinga to finish his overs, but Dhoni showed the right attitude by attacking Malinga getting more than 8 runs in the crucial 48th over. He stepped up and led the team from front when needed and then was equally comfortable staying in the background to let Sachin be the center of celebrations. Nothing wrong about SRT being the center of the adulation after all the whole team, the nation and the world has immense respect for the legend and the team rallied for the world cup in a lot of ways for him. It was heartening to hear Virat Kohli who is 22 years say “Sachin has carried the burden for India for the last 22 years the least we can do is carry him on our shoulders.” But I digress, I think Dhoni was very gracious in making sure his team took center stage. You may stand on the edge during the photos but Mr. Captain you are in the center stage of many a million fans’ hearts.