S. Ram Mahesh
London: Such is the nature of modern-day cricket journalism that every little thing today is either the biggest, the greatest or the highest.
Significance is read into it; yet, come tomorrow, all is forgotten. Little wonder that ahead of the crucial third Test against England here at The Oval, news of M.S. Dhoni being named captain for the Twenty20 World Cup in South Africa was looked into for all sorts of meaning.
Dilip Vengsarkar, chairman of selectors and here as part of the touring party, was pestered. Surely, this means Dhoni is the one for the future — the one who will take us to the promised land, gushed one journalist.
“I can’t comment on the future,” said Vengsarkar, his staccato delivery piercing the air of hyper-ventilation. “He’s good captaincy material. I think he’s a good thinker of the game and he’s in good form also, so he’s the right choice.”
Dhoni, himself, kept a level head. His only concession was a smile, the kind breathless prose writers describe as “radiant.”
“It is a pleasure leading your country,” said Dhoni. “Especially when you are just over three years old in international cricket. And that too coming from a state (Jharkhand) that is not known for cricket. Five years back nobody would have ever thought that somebody would play for India from this state. Now, if I look back I am very glad and excited. But the important thing is to go there, play well and lead the team from the front.”
Through his first interaction with the media as Twenty20 captain, Dhoni showed why he has fast gained a reputation as a sharp cricketer who can express himself simply.
Take his reply to a question on decision-making for instance — “Sometimes you are the captain for five or ten matches but you don’t really have that perfect situation when you have to make that one decision that matters for the game.”
Or another response that illustrated how a captain is judged in hindsight — “If I promote someone to number three and he scores, it’s a good decision. If he fails, it isn’t.”
Dhoni said he had learnt the importance of “being calm and cool” from his Test and ODI captain Rahul Dravid, though he refused to be drawn into who his favourite skipper is.
“If you are open minded and eager to learn then you can learn a lot from the senior guys, from the captains and from the very successful captains in international cricket,” he said, when asked about his lack of captaincy experience.
Surprisingly, the 26-year-old said he had never dreamt of captaining the country. “I think it’s not about leading,” he said, “it’s about playing good aggressive cricket and doing well for your country.”
Eventually, talk turned to the Test beginning on Thursday, and Dhoni spoke of breaking it into sessions: neither original nor coruscating, but sharp and crisp.
He rejected the ill-informed view that the team had grown complacent since the second Test — he probably made a mental note of the journalist who asked the question — and spoke of treating the game as a one-Test series.
Dhoni handled his first prickly question as Twenty20 captain with honesty. Asked about Sreesanth, he said, “Even I don’t know if it (the beamer) was deliberate or it slipped out of his hand, he is the only guy who knows. I’m glad he went and said sorry to Pietersen. Even if it wasn’t intentional it was pretty accurate. Things like that should be avoided even if it was not intentional.”
On the topic of Sreesanth, it is learnt that the paceman is likely to play the third Test. There was conjecture regarding his place in the eleven: would a combination of his emotional outburst and the success of Ramesh Powar in the practice game affect his spot?
Indications are it won’t. The young bowler needs a stern word condemning his behaviour. But, he needs support to evolve both as a person and a bowler. He is too precious to be lost to apathy.
Vengsarkar confirmed that Zaheer Khan was rested from the Twent20 World Cup because of a bruised heel.
“Zaheer Khan has a bruised heel. He will require rest and he’s got three weeks,” said Vengsarkar. “He asked us to give him rest.”
On Irfan Pathan’s selection, Vengsarkar said, “I spoke to Chandrakant Pandit (the India A coach) and he told me Irfan is bowling well in Kenya. He can bat at No.7 and bowl. He is also a good fielder.”
Vengsarkar also explained the position on Munaf Patel. “Munaf is in form. I think he’s bowling well. He is playing in the KSCA tournament at the moment and he is fit. He will be useful here.”