Saturday, April 2, 2011

India is now Dhoni

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At 30 off 29 balls, Yuvraj Singh swung and missed off Malinga. The familiar feeling of an impending implosion began taking possession of my being. Two more dot balls followed and I closed my eyes hoping that madness would not consume Yuvraj. Over the next two balls, Yuvraj took 3 calm runs. I breathed a sigh of relief. India were going to be champions. There would be no heartbreak. India knocked off the runs without a flourish until the very last shot. No mountain too high, no river too deep and no adversity too hard. India has become Dhoni. Calm, collected and cool.

Flashback to the World Cup in 1987. In the very first game against Australia, after being 206-2, India slumped to defeat by one run chasing 270. In that game, the original Ice Man, Steve Waugh, administered the narcotic. India didn't manufacture ice-men. When Gambhir went at 223, to a ditsy shot, my brain was beginning to turn into spaghetti. Time and again, India's big, bad, deep and stats-rich batting line-up had demonstrated no mental strength and belief. Right from the waning days of Gavaskar until now, India could collapse anytime.

But in this World Cup, India have chased with the perseverance of the FBI chasing the Unabomber. They have stayed in the hunt in the big games chasing runs. They have taken games to their logical conclusions, rather than try to finish them off in a flurry of shots. It has taken decades to shake off the "hit-out-or-get-out" habit.

This team has probably learned the lesson that Miandad taught India in 1986. It ain't over until it's over. Gambhir, Kohli and Yuvraj Singh have played their parts to perfection in most of the matches. Whenever the alternate script had to be enacted, they were in good form in every match. India's primary script was for Sehwag and Tendulkar to score big and take as big a bite as they could of the score they were chasing. When it didn't go that script, they settled into a "death-by-a-thousand-cuts" script that would take matches to the last few overs. Against Australia and in the finals, India have had to find plan B.

Bringing himself to the center stage in the final, Dhoni gave notice to the superstars playing in the game that this was his stage. Tendulkar, Murali, Jayawardene, Sangakarra and Sehwag are some of the biggest the sport has seen. Zaheer and Malinga have performed World Cup feats that will live in memory for a while. Jayawardene constructed a magnificent century. One of the very best ever crafted in the World cup finals. It wasn't brutal like Ponting or Gilchrist's recent efforts, but it was clinical, suave and scientific.

Conventional thinking suggested that Sehwag or Tendulkar were the only ones who could respond. But Dhoni was going to have none of that. He put himself in the middle of the biggest game of his life and charmed it, coaxed it, cajoled it and finally when it was almost his, brought out his biggest shot. There was only one occasion when he almost was run out that he lost it for a second. But he immediately, put his arm up, owned up for the situation despite it not really being his fault and continued. That's what leaders do. This was going to his. He owned it.

This is a new India. An India that believes that it can. It stays calm. It knows nothing but pressure. It has learned to accept it and get on with it. It explodes when it can and buckles down when it needs to. This India now manufactures Ice-Men by the dozen. Dhoni is India and India is now Dhoni.

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Kruiser said...

echoes the sentiments of a billion Indians... very succinctly put!

Govind Raj said...

Hats off for putting into words so beautifully; what has yet to sink into the minds of most of us !

Anonymous said...

Very good article, got to agree about Dhoni, he showed very fine stuff coming out like that and taking the responsiblity. One of the best skipper's knocks I've seen.

tracerbullet007 said...

We are the Dhoni generation!

straight point said...

so how does it feel to be world champs... again...? :)

the way next-gen cricket grabbed the opportunity and turned it into a world champions title... is the real story to me...

Vidooshak said...

Thanks guys..