S.V. SRIRAM

At the world Twenty20 in Durban recently, Dhoni and his men played an exemplary game bringing home the trophy.

Ranchi, Baroda, Chandigarh, Rohtak, Kothamangalam, Coorg, Jalandhar, and Bansod (Nagpur) — a list of familiar and not-so-familiar places. But recently these places have made a place for themselves in the collective consciousness of the cricket lover in this country.

For these places are the proud home-towns/birthplaces of some of the stars of the recently concluded World Twenty20. That India won the inaugural edition would be old hat by the time you read this. But what lingers on still is the dew drop freshness that this new-look Indian side has bought to the game.

Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni has revitalised the way in which the game is played in India. He has tossed old ideas out of the window and set about his task with such audacity that it would have the purists balking. Without the weight of expectations of a cricket-mad country, Dhoni’s Dashers played with a happy abandon and fearlessness that can only be associated with youth.

Young and dynamic

Dhoni backed his hunches and his players to the hilt. Never flustered on the field, Dhoni played his cards well. He went for his aces and pulled the joker out on two occasions at least.

Maybe it helped that a majority in his team were making their first major foray into international cricket. Maybe their small-town roots unshackled them of any fears, any self-doubts. Gone was the jitteriness and tension associated with major stars, who were weighed down by their own hoary past.

Incidentally Graeme Smith had snidely remarked that this version of the game was for the more athletic and young when he learnt of the pull-out of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly from the tournament. No truer words could ever have been spoken.

For filling in the void created was a bunch, comprising the dashing Gautam Gambhir, the level-headed Robin Uthappa, the match-winner in Yuvraj Singh and the rich in attitude and aptitude Rohit Sharma.

The bowlers weren’t far behind. Rudra Pratap Singh, the re-energised Irfan Pathan, cool-under-pressure Joginder Sharma, a hungry-for-a-battle Harbhajan and the ever live-wire Sreesanth made the batsman hop around in their crease.

Backing the bowling and batting was the exemplary fielding. With young blood on the field, catches were snapped out of thin air. Strong legs chased the balls with gusto and even stronger shoulders sent in accurate throws.

And to cap it all was the refreshing, free-spirited captaincy of Dhoni. While his onfield exploits earned him plaudits, his obsession for fast bikes and hair styles ensured that he was chosen as the MTV Youth Icon in 2006. One suspects that in the years to come, a few from this team will make it to that list.

Dhoni’s Dashers — young, athletic and hungry for success — have made everyone eat humble pie. They have shown that they are the team for the future.

Big time Small towners

In fact Dhoni himself stated, “Guys coming from small-time towns are generally mentally and physically tougher than those coming from the metros. The infrastructure and facilities are not there and so players from smaller towns have to work harder.”

Hard work and the desire to bring glory for the team worked wonders.