SOME SAY he is a freak while others call him plain lucky. The majority though, failing to come to terms with his meteoric rise, say he has the Midas touch. Only a miniscule percentage believes that Mahendra Singh Dhoni is all talent. Dhoni, as IPL season two has conclusively proved, is the least insecure of all contemporary cricketers. Also, there is an element of selflessness to his play, a quality that comes from tremendous self belief and confidence.
Chennai Super Kings had a poor start to their IPL campaign. Dhoni, unable to do much with the bat, was the one held accountable. Just as the critics were lining up to take a dig at the Indian captain came the masterstroke: a promotion to number three and a whirlwind half century that won him the Man of the Match award against the Deccan Chargers. He followed it up with yet another spectacular half century against Kings XI Punjab. With fierce cuts and an innovative use of the bottom hand, Dhoni had suddenly turned the clock back to 2005, when a rookie wicket-keeper stunned the world with a savage 148 against Pakistan at Vizag. However, his innings wasn’t enough to thwart a determined Yuvraj Singh. That’s when skipper Dhoni, contrary to all expectations, bowled Suresh Raina for two crucial overs during the Kings XI chase. The result: just eight runs from Raina’s twelve balls and the match was over for the Kings.
Chennai played their next game against the Rajasthan Royals, a team that discovered form midway into the tournament. It was a game billed as one between eventual semi-finalists. Going by his form, there was little doubt that Dhoni would bat up the order. Instead, he sent S Badrinath to bat above him. And much to the surprise of us all, it was Badrinath’s half century that resulted in Chennai’s win. Dhoni, the selfless and innovative captain had come to the fore for the second time in the match. The first, lest we forget, was the dramatic decision to continue with Shadab Jakati against the devastating Yusuf Pathan who scored two sixes in the previous over. This time, however, Jakati dismissed Yusuf. With Dhoni at the helm, this was no surprise.
With only a few days to the second T-20 World Cup at Lords, one is forced to recollect the birth of the Dhoni phenomenon. Leading an un-fancied Indian side at the inaugural T-20 world cup in South Africa, Dhoni defied all odds by giving us our second world cricket title after twenty-four years. Since then, he has won us nearly everything. With an unblemished test record and a superlative 70 percent-plus success rate in one-day internationals, he is one of the hottest captains around. Yet, if something is still missing from his record, it’s that climactic victory that will silence his critics once and for all. A victory that will convert the Dhoni phenomenon into a cult and help settle the issue conclusively. If Dhoni lifts the world T-20 trophy at the famed Lords balcony on 21 June 2009 and the nation will be delirious with. Critics, true to their nature, will suddenly not stop short of calling him an enigma and fans will worship him as their most loved deity. Dhoni, however, it can be surmised, will remain just as selfless. Come IPL three and he will once again bat down the order resulting in murmurs that Dhoni, the batsman, is a thing of the past. And then he will innovate, just then he will, once again, prove his critics wrong. The cat and mouse game will perhaps never end, yet another feature of the maturing Dhoni cult.