A Cricketing Chameleon: How MS Dhoni Transformed India from World Contenders to World Beaters

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Rohan Sharma analyses exactly how MS Dhoni transformed India.

A cricketing chameleon. This is how one can best term MS Dhoni the player. Through his sheer adaptability and temperament, MS has quickly established himself as a modern ODI specialist.  His ability to pad the lower order and keep the scoreboard ticking through the slower middle overs has proven vital on many an occasion. The fact that he has become a vastly improved wicket-keeper helps address team balance and allows for flexibility within the order.

But ask any Indian fan what sets Dhoni apart and they will be quick to turn you on to his powerful strokes, fast hands and his ability to clear the ground on a regular basis. Dhoni, through his supple wrists and whip like wind-up, is able to convert full delivers into low full tosses, and has shown a natural propensity in dispatching length deliveries to the boundary. Where Dhoni is most threatening, is his ability to unleash a three-four over blitzkrieg which can turn the very course of a match. MS cuts a talismanic figure, be it when the chase is on, or when considered aggression is required.

If Sachin and Sehwag dominate from the outset he can be promoted one drop and begin administering calculated punishment on the bowlers. His pickup and follow through lend a disdainful hue to the strokes he executes, giving one the impression that he is bullying the bowlers into submission. His awareness and electric running between the wickets has provided the team many a valuable run. The many forms that his batting take place added responsibility on him, and as such he has emerged as a go-to player once a crisis unfolds.

While MS’ batting harbour a natural proclivity towards aggression, over the years he has developed his game to become a reliable finisher in the limited overs format. He has shown immense aptitude in batting accordingly to the cause, changing gears as necessary. This multi-dimensional approach to his batting places added strain and relevance on his wicket by the opposition.  How he has managed to sustain an average of 50 over 170 odd matches at a strike rate touching 90 is a true testament to his raison d’etre, and how well he has been able to transform his game to meet the rigours of ODI cricket.

Through sheer consistency and verve Dhoni was identified as a future captain, and it was on this confidence that the BCCI awarded him the honour for the inaugural T20 World Cup. The rather subdued reaction at home was symptomatic of the media’s faith in the team, with the event being caricatured as somewhat of a frivolous event.  When India turned out to win however, the jubilation experienced throughout the country quickly fast-tracked the demand for this new breed of jaldi cricket. In 2008 Dhoni became the ODI captain and quickly turned the Indian team from world contenders, into world beaters.

The success which India enjoys presently is largely attributed to the conviction in which he has led, not only on the field, but off it as well. Matthew Hayden, Dhoni`s teammate from the now disbanded Chennai Super Kings, described him as the teams engine room, and that whichever room MS happened to lay, the rest of the team would quickly populate and gather. His flow with Gary Kirsten has allowed for an open and relaxed air within the camp. This has lent much stability and has cultivated the team into a close-knit group.

Dhoni`s on field persona is immaculate when one observes his conduct and manner. He is fully aware of the responsibility his role carries, keeping his emotions in check and never giving away any inclination of the situation getting to him. His unflappable demeanour transfuses belief into the rest of the troops on the field, surging them forwards for the kill. His captaincy style breaks away from the traditional mould his predecessors embodied, in which a draw was as satisfying a result as a win. The instinctive nature of his leadership quite fittingly sums up his disposition and self-belief he holds not only in himself, but his teammates as well. There exists a winning mentality amongst the team, as seen through their continued success both home and away. It`s without doubt that Dhoni`s fortitude and eminence place him on the cusp of achieving rarefied heights in Indian cricket.

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