Super King reestablishes his authority

Super King reestablishes his authority

Since his debut in 2004, Mahendra Singh Dhoni had captured the hearts of Indian cricket fans like no one else, writing the fairytale of a small town boy making it big in international arena. But his fortunes hit the downward curve from that ill-fated tour of England in mid 2011.

It reached a nadir when India lost the home series against England late last year, and suddenly Dhoni became the object of an entire nation’s ire.  

How can he continue to be the captain after a spate of Test defeats? How can he lead a side when his personal form is dipping? Does he still command the same respect in the dressing room after a calamitous year and half?

Questions that once perceived as blasphemous were began to do rounds – first secretly and then more openly. Even as the fire raged around him, the central figure in those heated debates maintained a dignified silence.

On a bright Sunday at the MA Chidambaram stadium here, his second home, Dhoni decided to break his silence. He chose to do so with his bat, muscling his way to a double hundred that put India in a position from where they can push for a win. When he arrived at the crease, India were 196 for four, and some way behind Australia in the first Test.

A now-familiar Dhoni would have played a cautious game, waiting for his chances, but the Indian captain invoked an old self of him – positive and ready to go after opposition in his effort to create a space for himself. Concentrated mainly on singles and doubles in the initial few minutes, two fours in Nathan Lyon’s over liberated him.

Puppet master

From that point, Dhoni was the commanding puppet master, orchestrating the course of the match singlehandedly. He indeed slowed down a bit in the 90s, but a boundary, a brutal whack to square leg off Peter Siddle while walking down the track, pushed him past the three-figure mark, and the Jharkhand man picked up his pace once again from there. His next hundred came in just 81 balls, while smashing a further 10 fours and four sixes, as he recorded his best score yet in Test cricket.

As the knock might also be a befitting answer to his critics, it also served as pointer to the psyche of Dhoni. Pressures of various kinds have enveloped him in the recent past, but here on view was a Dhoni who was totally oblivious to all those external factors.

Virat Kohli, who batted with him for nearly 27 overs, described Dhoni’s approach. “He did not want to talk about the game. He just talked about something else to me. He was pretty calm and relaxed,” Kohli said.

The Delhi man, who may one day succeed Dhoni at the helm, then described the effect of Dhoni’s innings. “You do not have to say much when he bats like that. Coming at the fall of Tendulkar, we needed to capitalize on the partnership between Sachin and me, and we did that. In flow he can hit the ball a mile and can totally take the game away from you.  So, it is a great example of his ability and his strike rate was 87 per cent, which is quite brilliant.  It is only a few players in the world who can do that.”

Before this innings, Dhoni’s captaincy, even place in the Test side, was under question, but with each stroke that reached the far corners of the Chepauk, he alleviated those doubts.

Even more importantly, this innings will help us to fall back in love with Dhoni!

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