Cricket

Dhoni, the only constant amidst changes

CAPTAIN COURAGEOUS: M.S. Dhoni may have to nurture his combative skills till the current group matures

CAPTAIN COURAGEOUS: M.S. Dhoni may have to nurture his combative skills till the current group matures  

Time running out for India as the skipper has given enough hints of his mortality

M.S. Dhoni has been the one constant shield while Indian cricket underwent seismic shifts over the last six years.

The retirement of legends ranging from Anil Kumble (2008) to Sachin Tendulkar (2013) and the inability of the bridge-generation, which featured players like Virender Sehwag and Harbhajan Singh, to step up meant that Dhoni had to single-handedly guide a fresh bunch of players.

The results in England have nosedived from the 1-0 lead to a 1-2 slump but largely the present squad’s core will ideally be the nucleus in the coming years. Murali Vijay, Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, R. Ashwin, Ishant Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar despite their varied individual performances, seem set for the long haul.

In Dhoni, they have a strong individual, willing to cope with criticism besides remaining grounded when victories are secured.

But India has no time to rest easy upon the notion that the Indian skipper will be around for many years.

Over the past few years, Dhoni has given enough hints about his cricketing mortality. Recently, he said that the Lord’s Test will be his last at cricket’s Mecca.

World Cups have this conflicting habit of hoisting individuals and teams for posterity while also finishing the last remaining pages in a player’s chapter. When the premier tournament unravels in Australia and New Zealand in early 2015, it could also whip up thoughts in Dhoni’s mind about his career-longevity but hopefully, he would nurture his combative instincts for some more time till the current group gains the needed maturity and resolve.

Enhanced credentials

On this tour, Dhoni the batsman has shown a resilience and patience that will only embellish his credentials. With 267 runs, he has the third highest aggregate after Vijay and Rahane. He countered swing in his own intuitive and rustic ways by moving across or forward, has taken blows on his body and whenever he opted for five bowlers, has walked in at six and tried to shepherd the tail.

As a skipper, he struck gold with the bouncer-theory at Lord’s, exasperated many with his granting of one-over spells to his bowlers at Southampton’s Ageas Bowl and slipped on a defensive garb here at Old Trafford.

May be it is the raw seam attack, especially after Ishant’s injury, that has convinced the captain to hedge his bets mostly on stopping runs.

But Dhoni the wicketkeeper has struggled. Placed fifth in the all-time list headed by South Africa’s Mark Boucher (532 catches and 22 stumpings), Dhoni currently has 240 catches and 37 stumpings to his credit.

For someone, who just like his batting, may not offer aesthetic joy behind the stumps, Dhoni has been remarkably effective.

However, over the last month, he has revealed a fatigue that hurts him more than his aching fingers.

He has not gone for those edges that hover between him and first slip, and men who manned that position, be it Shikhar Dhawan or Vijay, have been caught unawares. Maybe a new catching-chemistry has to be struck like the one he had with Rahul Dravid when the latter stood next to the captain.

Dhoni missed a run-out of Jos Buttler too during the fourth Test and by his supreme standards, it was a regulation chance.

Yet, he has a tally of 14 catches in this series and the above mentioned blemishes may just be minor aberrations, but if it is a sign of his 33-year-old body dulling reflexes, it could become a nagging worry.

Just like Dhoni the batsman has found a way to counter obstacles, India’s most successful captain and statistically its number one wicketkeeper, has to find a way to weave in victories and stay alert to chances.

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Printable version | May 27, 2020 12:47:31 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/cricket/dhoni-the-only-constant-amidst-changes/article6309681.ece

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