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Dhoni is only human

Wisden India logo Wisden India 27-06-2015 S Badrinath

The World T20 title. The World Cup crown. The Champions Trophy. Two IPL and Champions League T20 successes each. The most successful Indian captain, an exquisite wicketkeeper with lightning hands, a fearless leader with the ability to handle any situation. Arguably the best middle-order batsman/finisher in limited-overs cricket. Most of all, a strong yet humble individual, with an elementary lifestyle. Sometimes , it is hard to believe that Mahendra Singh Dhoni is only human.

For me, it is not all of the accolades above that define the man, but the maturity he has shown over the years. Inducted into the national captaincy at a very young age and being at the helm of Indian cricket across all formats, whether it was a dressing room filled with legends or a young side like when he was first named skipper for the World T20 in South Africa in 2007, MS always made sure that a coherent, congenial atmosphere prevailed with the ranks at all times.

Having played more than a hundred games with MS either as a teammate and under his leadership, I still can’t help myself get over a few facets of the man. Our team could have played a brilliant game of cricket chasing a huge score and won, or a horrible one marked by a below-par performance, and still one couldn’t find much difference in the way he would conduct himself. His ability to stay detached from expectations and results is what sets him apart, and helps him make the right decisions most of the time.

If the past few months are being spoken of as a lean patch, it is only because MS has spoilt us with the phenomenal standards he has set over the years as a cricketer, a leader and as an ambassador for Indian cricket. The saying that readily springs to my mind is ‘The tree that bears the most fruits gets pelted the most’. Come to think of it, had MS not been in his 30s and had he not relinquished Test captaincy as well as his Test career, would have the same questions be raised as they are now, when his leadership skills in the limited-overs formats are being dissected?

As a current Indian cricketer, the last six months would definitely have had to be very demanding. A very long tour to Australia, the tri-series that followed, then the World Cup and, almost immediately, the IPL, all make for a packed calendar. It’s very important to understand the emotional and mental undercurrents that a sportsman goes through. The emotional rollercoaster that a normal human being experiences through in his entire lifetime is what a professional sportsperson goes through in his sporting career alone. And being the captain for the majority of your professional career only magnifies the pressures and the demands that MS, a recent father, has had to endure. If the proposed tour of Zimbabwe stands cancelled as is being anticipated, the month-long break before the trip to Sri Lanka couldn’t have come at a better time for MS and the boys.

Before signing off, I want to ask myself, as a cricketer, just one simple question. It’s a high pressure game and I am the fielding captain. The opposition needs 20 runs off 10 balls. Who would I rather not have batting in the middle? I know my answer.

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