By Venkat Balantrapu
Not since the days of Kapil Dev has an Indian who is not a frontline batsman has created a major impact with his batting as Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Ever since his debut – ODIs in 2004 and Test in 2005 - Dhoni’s savagely unorthodox batting has made his stock in international cricket soar like mercury on a scorching summer afternoon. His Tests & ODIs combined pool of 11 hundreds and 57 fifties speaks volumes for his credentials in front of the wicket. That he has the added burden of captaincy and the demanding job of a ’keeper makes his success all the more spectacular.
He is not just another player who got the position of leading the side merely on the basis of seniority. He earned his captaincy on merit at a young age and has played a significant role in India attaining Pole Position in international cricket. He has marshaled his resources to help India win the inaugural T20 World Cup and, as captain of India in Tests, has not lost a single series.
Dhoni was under two years old when Kapil Dev’s Indian team won the 1983 World Cup in England. Since then, the Indian team has never looked so good to win the World Cup yet as it is now in the 2011 edition. And in Dhoni, India has one of the coolest leaders in the history of cricket with a proven track record as captain.
Dhoni leads by personal example. And in the warm-up game against New Zealand, he roared back into form with timely century – a knock that will do both him and the Indian team immense good. An off-form captain – especially in a major event like the World Cup – does not augur well for the team and Dhoni’s recent hundred would have made the Indian team quite buoyant.
It’s not easy for bowlers to bowl to Dhoni or for captains to set fields for a batsman who is unconventional in the extreme. His brutal attacks have changed the course of a game in a jiffy and that is something oppositions would be most mindful about a batsman coming lower down.
Despite its awesome reputation, the Indian batting line-up has not lived up to expectations in recent times. In fact, it’s the bowlers who have played a major role in most of our recent victories.
As a team best equipped to winning the World Cup, India needs Dhoni the batsman as much as it needs Dhoni the captain.
(Venkat Balantrapu works in senior insurance management in Tanzania. He has deep passion for cricket and has played the game at various levels in India, and also in some of the African countries for over a period of two decades. Venkat writes on the game with the same passion for various websites and magazines)