The Mahi Way
Moments before Maria Sharapova stepped on the court to take on Ana Ivanovic in the final of the Australian Open, Billie Jean King - a legend of the game had text messaged Maria. It read, "Pressure is a privilege." What happened after that is history. The Russian went on to win her maiden Australian Open title. Not too far was the Indian side continuing its battle against the Australians and with the Sri Lankans joining in the fray for the One-Dayers, the atmosphere just got a bit more electric.
It's in this context that I would look at Mahendra Singh Dhoni's presence in the dressing room. He seems to enjoy the pressure of being captain, which is not necessarily confined to talking with ten others in the playing field. The tri-nations tournament in Australia is a stern test but to me the end result of the tournament is not a concern. I'm worried more about the process that goes through in the making of a very good team. And Mahendra Dhoni at the top is the right way to go.
To be honest, I was one of the skeptics when he was appointed the skipper of the limited-overs version of the game. But he has put in some improved performances since then, which has changed my views on him. As a player, the key is to know your limitations and I guess Dhoni knows his game pretty well. That is also one of the reasons why someone like Ravi Shastri appreciates Dhoni. Whether it's a series-setting 76 not out in 159 balls at Lord's or a patient 17 in 54 balls when India were struggling to chase Australia's total of 159 at the MCG, Dhoni is proving that he is more a team player who leads from the front. And at the end of the day, that's what a captain is all about.
It is here that he refreshingly differs from someone like Virender Sehwag. For over 50 Tests and close to 200 One-Day Internationals, the selectors, pundits and the common man have tried explaining to Sehwag the importance of staying at the wicket. Whether he is working towards implementing the advice is debatable but what is certain is he hasn't been showing the results that one would want of him more often than not. And that's where Dhoni has matured. He is showing the world that aggression need not be dispatching every ball a few rows behind in the park but it's also about staying there and making it count. Dhoni's form behind the stumps is worth noting as well. He might not be the most nimble footed or the most elegant looking wicketkeeper but he does his job efficiently and that's what counts at the end of the day.
Allowing players to express themselves has been the hallmark of Dhoni's captaincy. That's what Dhoni has managed to do in his limited tenure as a captain. Whether it be handing the ball over to Joginder Sharma in the Twenty20 World Championship or asking Ishant Sharma to question himself about the job in hand when the young Delhi bowler was flayed to all parts of the park by Matthew Hayden at the MCG, Dhoni's youthful leadership has given a discernible freedom of expression. Having Sachin Tendulkar as the only senior so to say, Dhoni has only benefited. I wouldn't know the equation between Dhoni and Rahul or Dhoni and Sourav and would not want to go into the details but having just one former captain in the side instead of two or three has its merits. In Tendulkar, Dhoni has a mentor who he can look up to in times of need and a flurry of runs at the top of the order. Plus a host of other youngsters eager to find their feet at the international level eases things for the Jharkhand lad.
While there are reasons enough to believe that he is far from being an established member of the Test side, his ability to assume pressure as a privilege in the shorter version of the game is good to see.
More about Radhakrishnan Sreenivasan
S Radhakrishnan, better known as RK, is a sports freak. After dabbling in the world of Physics at the Madras Christian College, he did his Masters in Business Administration from Mumbai. Working in a corporate world didn’t suit him and he decided to enter the world of journalism. During his stint with ESPN Star Sports, RK covered the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2003, before moving on to join NEO Sports as their prime anchor. He is now the face of NEO Prime and NEO Sports.
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