M S Dhoni – the generalist who is a specialist.

M S Dhoni – the generalist who is a specialist.

7 minutes read

Mahendra Singh Dhoni, or as the kids are calling him nowadays – M S Dhoni. To elaborate on the title, I think I have finally figured an appropriate description for the man. He is a generalist who becomes a specialist in every activity he undertakes. And that’s not a bad quality for one to possess if one often succeeds. M S Dhoni though, has translated this risky venture into one of his mojos. Throughout different stages of his career, he has played different roles; some roles still acted out by him. He was a flamboyant finisher when he came in – he made himself an indispensable wicket-keeper to which he added his own style of nonconformism – he became the captain of the national team across all 3 formats and reached the pinnacle in all of them – he retired as captain but continues to guide the new captain and weighs in with opinions at every stage of the game, as a player – he developed what is called the Dhoni Review System (need not explain it further) – he bowls in nets and gives any fast bowler a run for his money.

M S Dhoni - the generalist who is a specialist

If I was a team owner or selector, I’d have him in my team without any second doubt. If I was a M S Dhoni hater, I’d stop being one. If I was a contrarian, I’d accept the persona of M S Dhoni. If I was a fan of aggression, I’d become a believer of calmness. One way is the Aussie way – aggressive captaincy that players themselves find the need to perform constantly. The other way is M S Dhoni’s way – to make players believe in themselves by discharging confidence into them, by making them believe that they can and then ensuring they do. Such is M S Dhoni’s ability to exude calmness and maturity, that you, as a viewer, almost feel India can win from any position as long as he is there, taking control of things. It almost surprises me that it took this long for me to realise the multiple ‘avatars’ of M S Dhoni, ‘avatars’ he still dons at various stages of the match.

Note: All these roles in the context of limited overs cricket in the current timeline.

Versatile Batsman and a Finisher

To be able to find a batsman who has the ability to bat at any position in the middle order with equal proficiency at each position is a luxury for the team. M S checks that criteria, in the sense that given the situation of the innings, his batting position can be changed. If the top 3 bat till 40-45 overs, he can come in and play that cameo innings, despite what people claim about him needing 20 balls to settle in. If the top order fails and India is reeling at 30-5, he can play the anchor innings, bat with the tail and take India to a formidable total. Case in point, 1st ODI vs Srilanka at Dharamsala, despite the eventual result. With him at the crease, the batsmen to come in or the batsmen at the other end feel less of the pressure of scoring runs or keeping up to the run rate.

Wicket-Keeper

Don’t kill me for being the devil’s advocate here. The biggest void Dhoni is going to leave is his wicket-keeping skills. Time and again, he’s showed us that wicket-keepers are as important to the game as all-rounders are. Be it his blind run-outs or be it his lightning-fast stumpings, the cameramen find the need to adapt to the awkward angles that Dhoni’s keeping produce. Dhoni’s fastest stumping occurred in 0.09 seconds. That’s the amount of time light and electricity will take to travel 2.7×10^6 m/s and sound will take to travel 30.87m. At 36, he still takes flying catches, inflicts stumpings for all deliveries the batsman is out of the crease, manufactures run-outs and to top it all, he can remove one glove and come all the way running for a run-out. Yes, you know which game I am talking about. To match his dexterity, India will probably need to field 3 wicket-keepers together, each of them with gloves. One for the flying catches, one specially for the blind run-outs and one for stumpings.

Friend, Guide and Philosopher

There are 2 sides to M S Dhoni – on the field and off the field. I’d analyse them separately if there was any difference. If he is a friend, guide and philosopher to everyone on the field, he is no different off the field. Dhoni has a positive influence in the selection policies of the team. Recent events about his role in the scheduling and payment revamp of Indian cricket indicate that he is team player when it comes to matters other than cricket. Undoubtedly, he is the right person to have if you are a youngster in the team and looking for a mentor. Moreover, he weighs in with field placements, bowling changes and often starts dictating the field, much to everyone’s amusement. From behind the stumps, as the keen listeners would already know, he often suggests changes in angles, lines and lengths to bowlers. Dhoni has this impeccable quality of analysing the approach of the batsman and guiding the bowler accordingly. If all that is not sufficient, we always see Virat going up to Mahi bhai for tips. Truly, Dhoni is making the transition of the Indian team a smooth one. That’s probably why we haven’t seen a continuity in bad performances by India in a long time.

Dhoni Review System (DRS)

Aha! I wouldn’t wanna be an umpire if Dhoni is batting. He’ll make me look like a fool on the field. If making DRS calls from behind the stumps wasn’t enough, in the first ODI at Dharamsala, he showed that he can make correct DRS calls from the non-striker’s end too. Consulting the stakeholders and making a DRS call is one thing but, making a DRS call based on your own analysis, intuition and skills is a completely different ball game. And attached with every DRS call in India is the hearts of more than a billion people. Yet, to make that call in a split of a second requires something only Dhoni can have. Isn’t it obvious with the difference in conversion rate of DRS calls of India between Tests and limited overs! Having a player behind the stumps who is constantly giving the players input and proactively making DRS calls is priceless. After all, Shardul Thakur does owe his first ODI wicket to Dhoni’s DRS call.

Nets Bowler

Although his decisions of bowling in international games was always frowned upon by analysts and fans alike, his habit of bowling in the nets is something which is very helpful. It takes the load off some regular bowlers. Recently, there was a video of him bowling in the nets prior to the Dharamsala ODI against Srilanka. He was sending down deliveries that would make a fast bowler wonder.

With the burden of captaincy off his shoulder, Dhoni has been able to strike the right balance between all these roles. And India has only benefited out of all this. For the sake of everyone, let’s just hope this continues until tomorrow and hope that tomorrow never comes. Truly a man who’s given it all. Truly a man who will continue to give it all. And, truly a man who deserves it all.

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