For years, he’s been regarded as the pin-up boy for Indian cricket; a talisman who looked untouchable given his extraordinary achievements as captain of his country. However, of late, that air of invincibility has disappeared, and the vultures have begun to circle around the head of MS Dhoni.
As Indian captain, criticism is inevitable. It’s perhaps the one cricketing role akin to the England football manager’s job, with the demands and expectations of millions of fans make it cricket’s toughest job. Questions are raised by some after every series defeat. Of late though, the questions have been raised by more and more. The test series loss to England was compounded by the One-Day series loss to arch rivals Pakistan. Dhoni looked under pressure, and showed of it too, losing his cool along with his form in crucial points in each series. Rumours of a dressing room rift were running wild, with experienced openers Sehwag and Gambhir looking to usurp their captain and take over at least one of his many captaincy roles in the side.
Many questioned whether his workload was getting to him. Here’s a man who has captained India in all forms of the game for over four, whilst fitting in more captaincy work in the IPL on the side. With speculation about his future surrounding him, Dhoni took to the field and led from the only way he knew how to: the front. A typically swashbuckling 72 in the second ODI against England reignited the captain and those around him, with his team recapturing some pride against the tourists by taking the series. Dhoni was at the forefront of everything good about India in that series: leading from the front in the field and displaying the calm collectiveness we’ve all come to know him for throughout the series. It was a clear sign that he was far from done as India Captain.
Now, Dhoni has followed up that performance with another show of character, hitting a superb 224, his highest test score for over four years, to lead his side to a comprehensive first test victory over a highly-regarded Australia side. Meanwhile, his two ‘rivals’, Gambhir and Sehwag, are being sidelined. Gambhir was an omission from the test squad, whilst Sehwag could soon be following after two sub-standard scores. Dhoni appears to be winning the battle.
It’s important for Indian Cricket not to forget where Dhoni has taken them. Coming in as captain to an aging side, he has given the fans everything they’ve ever wanted: A world cup win, a t20 World Cup win, Number 1 ranked test team in the world and, occasionally, the all-important win outside of the sub-continent. Yes, the culture of building players up and knocking them down is still prevalent in Indian cricket, but MS Dhoni remains a vital part of the Indian team, and removing him now would be a mistake that India could regret for years to come.
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