He MAY HAVE GOTTEN RUN OUT on the first ball he faced in his one day international debut over six years ago, but that’s just a statistic on his profile now. Since then, he has scored several centuries, broken an umpteen number of records as a wicket-keeper and batsman, and led his Men in Blue to one of the most glorious victories in the history of Indian cricket. 33,000 fans in the stadium and exponentially more watching live via satellite, all waiting with bated breath at his last shot, majestically hit for the maximum. The frenzy that followed can only be felt again and again, when any Indian remembers that splendid April night. Bringing home the ICC Cricket World Cup after 28 years, while playing on home ground was no mean feat. Add to that the double bonus of being named the Man of the Match for the finals for his knock of 91 not out in 79 balls.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni is not just the captain of the Indian cricket team; he is a force to be reckoned with. The highest score by a wicket keeper batsman in One Day Internationals. The highest score by a batsman in second innings of a One Day International. The highest number of sixes hit by an Indian in one inning of a One Day International. This and much more, all before turning 30. How does he do it?
“We take pressure as an added responsibility. We will stick to the basics and prepare well. We have the potential to do well in the tournament. For a change we will not be the underdogs,” said the confident captain at a promotional event before leading his team into the World Cup, without indulging in any sort of prediction games. “I never predict what will happen in cricket. We believe in each other and we believe in the process. We will take each game in the right frame of mind,” said Dhoni.
Couple this spirit with his large-heartedness and you get the blend of what’s needed to become a leader. He’s been generous with giving the youngsters a chance higher up in the batting order during the World Cup matches, taking full responsibility of his decisions and open to bearing the brunt, which did happen often! “My thinking was to give the youngsters a chance up the order and be down the order to take a bit of pressure, but more often than not the pressure got the better of me. I had a point to prove more to myself than anyone else, and I am glad I got the number of runs that I did,” he said after the World Cup finals.
Looking back, Dhoni’s elevation to captain of India’s One-Day team was a giant leap of faith. He was under three years old in the dressing room, but he seemed to have impressed the five selectors with his skill and ability. The then 26-year-old Jharkhand lad, while accepting the captaincy was humble to say that whatever he had learnt from his seniors and had contributed felt good, and that he would like to continue the same in future matches as well. The flamboyant cricketer did that and much more!
In fact, after Dhoni led India to a win in Pakistan, President Musharraf said, “May I especially congratulate Dhoni for being the architect of the victory. May I tell Dhoni, I saw a placard telling Dhoni to get a haircut but if you were to take my opinion, you look good in this haircut, don’t get a haircut.”
Much of the credit for the belief in the Indian side has to go to Dhoni. It’s fairly easy to captain a team when things are going just right, but the challenge is when things go wrong. That’s when the team looks up to the captain for tough decisions, direction and reassurance, and often times the expression on the captain’s face could well be the difference between winning and losing.
What was most impressive about Dhoni during the tournament was how he absorbed all the pressure and was willing to face it head on, so his team didn’t have to. Calling his own name when the chips were down, going up the batting order ahead of an in-form Yuvraj Singh, took a lot of guts. What better way to silence all your critics than to play the innings of a lifetime, while shouldering the responsibility of the team and the expectation of a billion people?
Extremely conscious of his role and responsibility to the team on match and non-match days, Dhoni was fully prepared to defend himself and his team during the presentation ceremony after the World Cup final. “There are plenty of questions, but it is good to win, and that is the one thing that was definitely pushing me to do well in this game. This was the goal that we wanted to achieve and each and every individual gave his 100 per cent.” Ravi Shastri aptly commented, “Plenty of questions to answer about the runs you scored, nice way to tell everyone to ‘shut up’!” Even to that deserved comment, our humble captain replied, “That will be rude.”
While being a cricketer with many hairstyles and impeccable play Dhoni is in the process of being awarded an honorary doctorate degree by the Jharkhand government, even before he completes his graduation from St Xavier’s College in Ranchi. Dhoni’s success has also led to him to become one of Indian cricket’s most marketable properties with crores of rupees being negotiated on his name. His face shows up on a range of media campaigns. But, his stamp on cricket is the one that will stick, and he knows it.
In a nutshell, Dhoni’s journey from Ranchi to riches is all about an ordinary man doing extraordinary things. Extraordinary as a person, a cricketer, and a leader. Truly India’s Superman!
His favourite animal – dog. He has three dogs, a mixed breed German Shepherd called Sam, a black Labrador called Zara, and a Weimaraner called Zoya
He gets his hair cut from Mumbai-based hairdresser Sapna Bhavnani
He is a Lata Mangeshkar and Kishore Kumar fan. He likes Prasoon Joshi as a lyricist
Other favourite singers are Rahat Fateh Ali khan and Kailash Kher. He also shares his birthday with Kailash Kher
His loves the Amitabh Bachchan movies Agneepath and Sholay; but prefers comedy and action over romance
His favourite actresses are Katrina Kaif, Chitrangada Singh, and Angelina Jolie
He loves big cars – Pajero and Scorpio
His favourite games are Counter Strike, Black Hawk Down, and Men of Valour
His favourite food is chicken – chicken butter masala with naan and chicken tikka pizza
He likes designer jeans and jackets are his style statement
He likes staying with his friends gossiping and partying. He hates people who butter him up
He is scared of needles! He married his sweetheart Sakshi Rawat on July 4, 2010 at a resort near Dehradun
Dhoni had given the younsters a chance higher up in the batting order during the 2011 World Cup
Volume 1 Issue 1