Mahendra Singh Dhoni is India’s beacon of calm
He has been in poor form with the bat but his captaincy has been exceptional, writes Rhys Hayward
Throughout the chaos of India’s World Cup semi-final victory over Pakistan, Mahendra Singh Dhoni stood as a beacon of calm.
The man who has led India to their third World Cup final and first since 2003 is arguably the most laid back man on the sub-continent.
Cricket’s quazi-religious status in India creates a level of frenzy which is arguably unmatched anywhere in sport.
Speaking after the match, Dhoni bemoaned the number of VIPs in the team hotel that prevented him from having his breakfast. Both Prime Ministers were present. This was serious.
Those who survive in such a pressured atmosphere have an innate ability to detach themselves from the chaotic nature of their job in order to succeed.
Sachin Tendulkar, the man with 99 international centuries, has dealt with this better than anyone else through a mixture of bloody mindedness and self imposed isolationism.
The same skills that make Tendulkar the finest batsman since Don Bradman are the same which allow him to detach himself from the public glare.
They do not however, make for great captaincy material and the Little Master’s flirtations with leading his country have been brief and surly.
The same can be said for his fine contemporary Rahul Dravid, whose intelligence and clam decorum might have made him a successful captain in a less intense environment.
Sourav Ganguly, who captained India in 2003, achieved his success with an air of uncompromising autocracy, aloofness and self-assuredness which polarised opinion. It is difficult to imagine him denied his breakfast on the morning of a World Cup semi-final.
But Dhoni has surpassed Ganguly, if not statistically, as India’s most prolific captain.
They are number one in the world Test rankings and have a superb chance of lifting the World Cup on home soil against Sri Lanka in Mumbai.
Dhoni has been in poor form with the bat during this tournament but his captaincy has been exceptional.
Some have questioned his preference to bat first when his side’s strength lies very much with its batting, but he has handled a limited bowling attack with aplomb.
Above all though, it is his air of focus and tranquillity filters down through his side from his position behind the stumps.
If India go one better than 2003 and win their second title then Dhoni’s status will be elevated even further than its current stratospheric height. Chances are he will barely notice.