Before the Indian squad was selected for the ICC World Cup 2019, I was asked by many people who would be the most important player for us in England. My answer – Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Now, with half the World Cup behind us, I see people asking the same question and raising doubts over Dhoni’s form in the tournament, but, my answer has not changed – simply wait and watch.After all, this is Dhoni we are talking about – the man who can perform miracles at will.
People may ask me if I have a special liking for Dhoni and I will say yes, I do. In fact, not just a special liking, I also have great regard and tremendous faith in his ability.
India is on the verge of reaching the semi-finals stage and Dhoni has not performed up to his potential till now, scoring just 90 runs in four innings.
However, his priceless advice to skipper Virat Kohli and the bowlers at crucial stages of the match, plus the adjustments he makes to the field positions at the right time, have proved to be masterstrokes – reinforcing his place as one of the most experienced and intelligent players of the 2019 World Cup.
India’s cricket-loving fans have a tendency to go overboard and overreact when star performers don’t deliver. But those of us who have played for India at the international level know exactly the importance and contribution made by Dhoni, even when he’s not scoring from his bat.Even Sachin Tendulkar expressed his unhappiness at the way Dhoni and Kedar Jadhav approached and paced their innings against Afghanistan at Southampton on Saturday.
But, don’t forget, the nature of the pitch in that match was not fit for a free-flowing batting approach and India had lost four crucial wickets – including that of captain Kohli – quite early in the match.
Had Dhoni and Jadhav not shown the maturity that they did, the Indian side might have ended with less than 200 runs on the board and the Afghans might have chased that target with great ease!
I still believe credit goes to Dhoni and Jadhav, who read the situation well and helped the team get 224 on the board, which ultimately helped put the pressure on the Afghans.
To win a tournament, a team has to peak at the right time. The Indian team, however, peaked right at the beginning of the tournament and is now on the verge of qualifying for the semis.Similarly, a player should also peak at the right time and mark my words, the sleeping giant – the team’s former ‘Captain Cool’ – is about to awaken and when he does, it will surely help the Indian team in the latter stages of the tournament.
Take India’s famous ‘Kul-Cha’ duo of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal or ask Jaspreet Bumrah or last match’s hat-trick hero Mohammed Shami, all are vocal about Dhoni’s contribution to their bowling and admit that the advice they get from the skipper is helping them reap great rewards.For me, today, Dhoni’s role in the team is primarily of an advisor, wicket-keeper second and batsman third.
He also plays a key role in changing the fielding positions and deciding which referrals need to be taken.
Whenever India have found themselves under pressure, cramped and choked, the captain, vice captain and the bowlers have all walked up to Dhoni for advice and, most of the time, it has worked wonders for the team.It is also nice to see captain Kohli giving a free hand to Dhoni, whenever he wants, to make changes to the field.
Dhoni had a brilliant run in the Indian Premier League as a batsman, he had a great run in the practice games prior to the World Cup and I am quite positive he will end this tournament on a high note as well.
More than its seniors – like Rohit Sharma, Kohli and Dhoni – clicking at the same time, India needs different players to click at the right moment, in different matches.
Let’s not make the mistake of writing off Dhoni. He will not let himself down, he will not let the Indian team down and he will not let the cricket-loving fans down.
This will most likely be the last World Cup for Dhoni and he will definitely like to end his career on a high.