Mission accomplished for Dhoni

Indian skipper displays extraordinary composure while leading a young team to title

Mission accomplished for Dhoni

Mahendra Singh Dhoni is not given to dramatics. In victory, as indeed in defeat, he maintains certain equanimity. Not even when he sealed India’s World Cup win with a six in Mumbai on April 2, 2011, he kept his emotions in check even as he team-mates cried, laughed and jumped around in ecstasy.    

On a muggy Sunday here at the Edgbaston stadium, however, the Indian skipper let out a rare side of his personality with an exaggerated celebration as James Tredwell connected air while needing a six off the last ball in the Champions Trophy final. Was it a moment of redemption given how poorly India had performed during their last visit to England or a fitting rebuke to his detractors considering the controversies back home surrounding his links with a certain player management group? Whichever way you look at it, personally, the triumph was a special one for Dhoni.

“It means a lot because you're playing against some of the best sides,” remarked a visibly delighted Dhoni. Having made the final as the only unbeaten team in the tournament, there was a genuine chance of India finishing second best in the truncated summit clash. Needing 20 runs off 16 balls with six wickets in hand, England contrived to snatch a defeat to remain without a major ICC one-day title but it would have been a travesty had India lost after playing such impressive cricket.       

With this win, Dhoni became the only captain in the world to have led his side to wins in all three ICC majors – World T20 (2007), World Cup (2011) and now the Champions Trophy which the world governing body wants to scratch from its calendar. Add to this achievement India’s number one ranking in Tests (2009-2011) and one-dayers under his leadership, Dhoni’s captaincy record is without a parallel and is unlikely to be matched any sooner.

As a batsman or even wicketkeeper, Dhoni isn’t the best India have produced. In fact, he is some distance away from being among the best in the field of his specialisation. But as captain, he is arguably the best from India and undisputedly the most successful of all of them. “I never turn up on the field to achieve something as a captain,” pointed out the Jharkhandi. “For me, winning the game is very important and that is of utmost importance for us as a team.”

Since his triumph in his maiden assignment – 2007 World T20 in South Africa -- as captain, Dhoni has seen heady days of success and disappointing lows of failure. From maintaining rock star-like long locks in his early years in the national squad to sporting statesman-like greying stubbles, Dhoni has metamorphosed into a shrewd leader. Dhoni’s calming influence on players is a much-spoken about topic, but his cricketing acumen is no less superior.

The way he held back his two spinners – R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja – for the two batting Power Play overs during England’s chase on Sunday was just one illustration of his ability to think on his feet. Temptation would have been to throw the ball to one of the faster bowlers but having sized up the conditions, turning and bouncing, he made Jadeja and Ashwin bowl the 19th and 20th overs respectively to design India’s win from an improbable position.

All along the tour, Dhoni has spoken about this Indian squad glowingly. He believes in good starts with bat and in Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan, he has found a good set of openers; he always craved for a handy all-rounder in the lower middle and in Jadeja he has discovered one; he has always stressed on having good fielders and this side has at least half-a-dozen world class fielders. Dhoni understandably refused to talk about the 2015 World Cup but, given a choice, he will not trade this team for anything as he mounts India’s defence of the quadrennial title.

“Well, it's very difficult to answer as of now,” he said. “People, especially players get injured very often. Most of these players may end up playing the 2015 World Cup, but it's too far ahead. We'll have plenty of tournaments before that and plenty of important series -- ICC event, Asia Cup and all of those series. So, I don't think we're looking too much ahead.
These players have replaced some really big names who have proven themselves over the years. But it was also important that we have a look at some of these new guys and give them an opportunity. Because most of them have earned their places in the side and it was important to get a good outing. That's what we have done so far,” he explained.

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