Great Gambler Dhoni is right on money

March 4th, 2008 - 8:56 pm ICT by admin  

By Veturi Srivatsa
India’s emphatic victory over Australia in the Commonwealth Bank series must have come as a big relief for at least two men, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Dilip Vengsarkar. The captain for sticking his neck out and insisting on a young team with fresh legs for the limited-overs cricket and the chairman of selectors for fully backing him. Dhoni has not made a secret of his gambler’s instincts when he said he listens to his mind and takes decisions on intuition. He has his own mind and speaks it out too like when he said he preferred players who were willing to stand in front of a speeding truck for him.

His instincts or his choice of players have rarely gone wrong. It was he who insisted on having Joginder Sharma for the Twenty20 world championship and even asked him to bowl the last over in the final against Pakistan when he had more experienced bowlers at his command. Sharma came good in a nerve-wracking finish and Dhoni was vindicated.

Likewise, he used Rudra Pratap Singh and Sreesanth as frontline bowlers sidelining Ajit Agarkar in the Twenty20 championship and on return he did not bat an eyelid in telling Rahul Dravid that he has no place in his scheme of things. And in Australia he sent out the message loud and clear to Sourav Ganguly.

Rohit Sharma came in for Dravid and Gautam Gambhir for Ganguly and the two young batsmen did not let him down.

Virender Sehwag was the next in line. Every pundit wanted him to open the innings, but Dhoni would have none of it. Instead he chose to go in with five bowlers and he has been proved right yet again.

Even his bowling changes bamboozled the Australians. One day it was Ishant Sharma and on another day Munaf Patel. Suddenly, in the finals the new ball was given to Praveen Kumar. If Praveen is a hero today, Dhoni should get credit for it howsoever well the Meerut lad bowled. He has also seen to it that Irfan Pathan regained his place in the eleven as an all-rounder. These gutsy decisions are fraught with risk. Dhoni backs his decisions without trying to fire from someone else’s shoulder.

The only player, perhaps, he could not have touched or he honestly believed in his necessity to the side is Sachin Tendulkar. By the end of the tour, Tendulkar became a fan of Dhoni’s captaincy, saying he thoroughly enjoyed his leadership qualities and backed him to the hilt.

Dhoni did not hesitate to say that he needed runs from his leading batsman if the team had to do well and the great man responded with two match-winning knocks in the finals.

Against Australia and Pakistan at home he saw the usefulness of left-arm spinner Murali Kartik and pulled him out of near retirement and the Railway captain not only won him matches with his bowling but also with his late-order batting. But, when it came to Australia he plumped for young Uttar Pradesh legspinner Piyush Chawla.

Out of the blue Dhoni included him in the two crucial final matches after he had spent the entire series warming the bench. Chawla brought off two good catches, including one in the tense closing stages of the second final at the Gabba besides coming up with decent run-restricting spells in the middle overs.

Finally, his backing Yuvraj Singh at a time when the left-handed strokemaker’s confidence was low and did not know from where from his next run was going to come. He could have easily rested the Punjab player and played Sehwag who had proved in the Test series that he could come up with a match-winning knock.

For Dhoni getting Yuvraj back in the groove was vital and he did regain his touch somewhat. Yuvi made up for his lack of runs with his brilliant fielding in effecting a couple of crucial run outs.

For Dhoni these little, little things count more than a meaningless big knock or useless bowling feats. For him the bits and pieces men mean more and that, too, when they deliver at crunch time. He has more or less got the nucleus of his side for some time to come and he is going to create more excitement with his maverick moves and out-of-the-blue decisions to surprise the conformists.

(Veturi Srivatsa is a veteran cricket writer. He can be contacted at

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