The Indian captain is decisive at the death. What makes Mahendra Singh Dhoni one of the great finishers in the game?
A man with weighty strokes, his mental make-up holds the key. In a revealing statement after yet another escape act down under last year, Dhoni said, “I keep my mind blank during the end overs.”
What Dhoni meant was, while he planned his innings, he did not premeditate his stroke or anticipate a particular delivery. In other words, he played the ball and not the bowler. Only the nature of the delivery counted, not the reputation of the bowler.
Watch Dhoni closely during the final overs and you can see there is no fancy movement by him before the point of release. He then picks the length quickly and generates enormous power with his bat-speed and wrists.
Yet, his batsmanship in the conclusive overs is not about ball striking ability alone. It’s also about rotating the ball cleverly, hard running and possessing the confidence to bat with the tail.
Former India cricketer and coach Aunshuman Gaekwad said, “His approach, his attitude, his planning, his execution, and the way he analyses a situation make him a formidable adversary in the final stages. He is so calm in pressure situations.”
Then Gaekwad made an important point. “He walks out in every innings thinking he has to stay till the end and that it is his responsibility to finish the game. I feel talented shot-makers like Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina have to learn much from Dhoni’s determination to stay till the end amidst all the stress.”
Former India left-arm spinner Maninder Singh said, “He is not bothered whether he wins or loses as long as he gives 100 per cent. He has this fearlessness about his batting that can unsettle the opposition. I think fortune favours the fearless.”
Maninder adds, “Dhoni can make decisions that can surprise the opposition. His sheer presence can be intimidating to the bowlers. A paceman could attempt a yorker but might end up bowling a full toss.”
Dhoni does feature in the elite list of clinical finishers in ODI cricket that includes Javed Miandad, Lance Klusener, Michael Bevan and Michael Hussey.
Given the explosive element in his batting, the Indian captain is closest to Klusener in the manner he can destroy an attack. The South African, unlike Dhoni, was an ordinary player of quality spin.
Dhoni can work the ball around capably like a Miandad or a Hussey, and has patience. He can wait and wait till the opposition blinks. It’s all in the mind.