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Leading from behind

History suggests it is impossible to do both, mind sore hands and fields for a long period. Rashid Latif and Adam Gilchrist, two adept multi-taskers in their time, weigh in

Sidharth Monga

November 10, 2011

Comments: 83 | Text size: A | A

Adam Gilchrist gestures to his fielders, Kochi Tuskers Kerala v Kings XI Punjab, IPL 2011, Indore, May 13, 2011
Gilchrist: "[Keeping wicket] gives you proper insight into how the bowlers are going, field positions and angles" © AFP
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"High and bullet-like to his left," Wisden described it.

Pakistan were favourites to win the Lord's ODI when they had reduced England's chase of 230 to 154 for 6 in the 36th over. Shoaib Akhtar was in rhythm that June afternoon in 2003, bowling fast; "extra-fast", as Wisden observed. Then the edge, high and bullet-like, to the left of Rashid Latif, was dropped, and the beneficiary, Marcus Trescothick, saw England home.

Latif remembers the drop clearly. It was the last of the 25 ODIs he captained Pakistan in, to go with six Tests. "We were winning that match," Latif says. "Shoaib Akhtar was very quick that day. Still, I was surprised I dropped that catch. It wasn't a difficult chance, and there were very few catches I dropped.

"I kept thinking about it till I went back to the mark next ball. Then I realised I hadn't stood there when I dropped the catch. I had been closer to the stumps than usual. I had been setting the field and had walked towards the stumps. I was so involved in doing that that I ended up standing too far in front for the next delivery. Trescothick nicked, I couldn't judge it, it hit the hand, and fell out."

This may be a rare case but it's definitely the sort of thing selectors have in mind when they try to keep wicketkeepers away from captaincy. The numbers are instructive. MS Dhoni's 32 Tests as a keeper-captain are well ahead of next man Gerry Alexander's 18. Only nine wicketkeepers have managed to captain their sides in 10 Tests. The ICC may have selected him as keeper-captain of their Test team of the year, but Kumar Sangakkara never kept wickets when captaining Sri Lanka, even if it meant handing over the gloves to the lesser-adept Tillakaratne Dilshan. Latif's example might sound a bit extreme but he uses it because, well, it exists. The less conspicuous issues are greater in number.

A wicketkeeper's stock work, especially in Tests, usually starts when everybody else begins to switch off. Every ball is an event that builds up slowly. The bowler runs in, the fielders take steps forward, the batsman concentrates on the ball in the bowler's hand, the non-striker and the umpire become alert, even the worst commentators shut up. The ball is pitched outside off, the batsman shoulders arms, and switches off. The fielders relax, the bowler starts thinking of the next delivery, the umpire and the non-striker relax; the commentators think of a joke, a statistic, an observation. According to stories told affectionately by Pakistani cricketers, Inzamam-ul-Haq could even doze off. The captain starts thinking where the game is going, whether he needs a bowling or a fielding change.

"Cricket is a game of concentration. Wicketkeeping more so. Calculation is the captain's job. What fields are required, how to use a bowler. You get lost in the match. You forget your own performance" Rashid Latif

If the keeper is the captain, the moment represents, to loosely use a term in vogue, a conflict of interest. A keeper's job is to stay blank, concentrate on the ball, rise from his squat as it passes the stumps, and collect it sweetly, in the middle-third of the palm. The margin of error is miniscule. If the timing is even slightly off, it can hurt the fingers. You can't afford to have your mind elsewhere then. Especially in places like England, where the ball swings late, or when the bounce is variable. The hands get sore if collections are even slightly off; the fingers get bruised. And it takes only the odd unclean collection to start a chain.

Paul Nixon recently observed of Dhoni: "I have been watching and studying the way he is keeping. From what I have seen, I think he has sore hands. He normally catches the ball strong and aggressively. I have seen him keeping the ball in an exaggerated manner. You do that as a keeper when your hands are sore."

There is a vicious cycle here. The hands become sore, so you are not relaxed while collecting, and thus you leave yourself open to further soreness and bruises. And they can pile up. Some might say Dhoni's disfigured hands - at the best of times he can't get his middle finger into an inner glove comfortably - are par for the course for a wicketkeeper, but it is possible that captaincy has played more than a significant role in it.

Even without the extra responsibility of captaincy, the wicketkeeper is arguably the most important man on the field, batsmen and umpires included.

"He actually runs the game," says Latif. "I can't talk about others, but from my experiences, your performance suffers when you are the captain too. Cricket is a game of concentration. Wicketkeeping more so. Calculation is the captain's job. What fields are required, how to use a bowler. You get lost in the match. You forget your own performance. All you are thinking is who should bowl the next over, does my strike bowler need rest, are my fields too defensive, are my fields conceding too many easy boundaries…"

Adam Gilchrist, who captained Australia to their series win in India in 2004-05, agrees about the demands of the jobs, but looks at it differently. "It all depends on the personality of the wicketkeeper," he says. "Lots of concentration required, but it's a part of the challenge, a part of satisfaction from the job. You work on your fitness, you work on your skill, and that fitness training allows you to maintain a better concentration."

Rashid Latif keeps, Pakistan v Bangladesh, Karachi, first Test, August 22, 2003
"You can effectively run the game through eye contact" © AFP

Gilchrist was the original deputy to Steve Waugh. When an injury forced Waugh out of a Test in 2000-01, a nervous Gilchrist, as Wisden said, captained Australia to a win over West Indies in Adelaide. When it came to replacing Waugh full time, though, the captaincy went to Ricky Ponting. Here comes into the picture the other, modern expectation from a keeper, the batting, which makes the job even more difficult.

"I think Ricky was the right man for the job, and I am not sure that I needed to be doing it full time because of the amount that was on offer," Gilchrist says. "The batting and keeping - for me, personally, I don't think I needed to be doing all that full time. We had a man qualified to take the reins, and I loved supporting him." Whether Gilchrist would have taken the challenge for his satisfaction had he not also been a specialist batsman seems a pointless question now.

Latif isn't in direct disagreement with Gilchrist. They concur on the unique advantage a wicketkeeper brings as a captain.

"I always found it a terrific spot to view a match from," Gilchrist says. "It gives you proper insight into how the bowlers are going, field positions and angles." Apart from that, the keeper knows exactly what the ball is doing. He knows what the batsman is trying to do. From how hard the ball thuds into his gloves, he can tell if the bowler is tiring.

Latif goes a step further and says a keeper as captain can do better in terms of strategy than just performing his perceived orthodox role of passing privileged information to the captain - preferably a batsman - and advising him. "The whole game is being played out in front of your eyes," he says. "If somebody else is the captain, you have to go to him or send the message across through someone. If you are yourself the captain, you need not go anywhere. You can effectively run the game through eye contact. If you can make it work, it works beautifully."

Wasim Akram, an advocate of bowler-captains, thinks only wicketkeepers can match bowlers when it comes to captaincy. As an aside, Pakistan need to be thanked for consistently challenging conventional ideas about captaincy. Which other team can claim to have had five unconventional captains in a decade - two bowlers, two wicketkeepers and an allrounder - and also to have won the World Cup, the Asian Test Championship, and stayed a formidable team during the period?

Latif found a method to keep himself fresh. "Initially I spread around the responsibility," he says. "I said, Younis Khan will command the fielding and I will just relax and look after bowling changes. Then I wouldn't get involved in their work. Because the match is developing at the same time."

The success story

If Latif had fielding captains who could share his burden, Dhoni has a bowling captain in Zaheer Khan. Moreover, as a captain Dhoni keeps things simple. He seems comfortable letting go. He doesn't stress himself too much with selection issues, and only truly switches on as captain after crossing the white line. The coaches he has worked with say the division of work is clear: it's their job to provide the best-prepared team, and his job to take over on the field.

"There are many batsmen or bowlers who prefer to concentrate on their own cricket. It's the same with keeper-batsmen. It shouldn't be a pigeon-hole" Adam Gilchrist

Then again, Dhoni's India play much more cricket than Latif's Pakistan did, or Australia did when Gilchrist played. On his days off, Dhoni captains his IPL franchise. Although strong and fit, he doesn't have a traditional wicketkeeper's body. It is tough to be extremely supple behind the wicket when you're as big as Dhoni is. Even with all the workload and captaincy pressure he remains the best keeper in the country, which has to be hard work. He has an understandably homemade technique with the gloves too. If the no-follow-through stumping is pure flash, for some reason he fails to dive for the catches between him and first slip more often than other keepers do.

In England when everything caught up - the stress of captaining a failing unit, the absence of the bowling captain, the fatigue, the late swing - Dhoni seemed every bit a keeper who could do with a little less work. And the inevitable question arose: to keep or to lead?

"I don't think we should brand every wicketkeeper [as] being unable to do it," Gilchrist says. "It's the same as some batsmen not being able to handle captaincy. There are many batsmen or many bowlers who prefer to concentrate on their own cricket. It's the same with keeper-batsmen. It shouldn't be a pigeon-hole." Then again, if a batsman or a bowler loses form on account of captaincy, there are five other batsmen and four other bowlers. The wicketkeeper is all alone.

Latif empathises with Dhoni. "I am a huge fan of Dhoni the captain," he says. "As a wicketkeeper he is not outstanding, has never been outstanding in the way that somebody like [Nayan] Mongia was. But Dhoni is a good leader, and solid behind the stumps, if you take out the England tour. It's possible he took all the pressure on himself. As a wicketkeeper, we just need to let him be for a while."

Dilip Vengsarkar, chairman of the selection committee that made Dhoni India's captain, says they didn't need to give special consideration to his being a wicketkeeper. "Actually when you are the captain, you are so involved in the game, you don't think about the workload," he says. "You are engrossed in thinking about the next move, the next bowling change, the next batsman, the field placement. As a captain it can actually take the pressure off your keeping."

MS Dhoni dropped Dinesh Karthik, Kings XI Punjab v Chennai Super Kings, IPL 2011, Mohali, April 13, 2011
Dhoni's keeping and captaincy workload is greater than those of wicketkeeper-captains in the past © AFP

Gilchrist agrees. He digs into personal experience of leading Australia in India in 2004. "If anything, captaining helped me in that series," he says. "By being able to remain focused on other things than just my own form. By having other things, it allowed my personal game to relax and enjoy it."

Both also agree that Dhoni is the only man who has come close to being a durable keeper-captain at the top level. Vengsarkar, though, would love to see him rested some time soon. "I admire his courage," he says. "He is a person who is playing each and every game; the only person in the team who is playing non-stop cricket. He can easily ask for rest, but he says this is his team.

"If you are playing non-stop cricket at the highest level, it takes its toll. That's what happened in England."

Four years ago Vengsarkar saw in the "way he approached the game" that Dhoni was the man. The man who would start as limited-overs captain and would gradually take over in Tests, because the next big assignment was in Australia, a tough tour for captains. As India prepare to go to Australia again, it's Dhoni's keeping that will be watched more closely than his captaincy. If he comes back well as a keeper and expectedly goes on to become India's most successful captain, future selection committees will have a success story to refer to when they are apprehensive about handing their side's reins to a wicketkeeper.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by   on (November 13, 2011, 6:28 GMT)

@everyone who says dhoni is not a great batsman or keeper....have u forgotten the kind of wicketkeeper-batsmen we had b4 him, mongia was solid behind the wicket but his batting was flashy and only came good sometimes.msk prasad, saba karim, the list goes on and on.....dhoni has been the best wicketkeeper- batsman india has produced in a long time and we r lucky he has been so good as a captain. ppl saying he had dravid, sachin, sehwag and all are barking mad. dravid had them all when he was the captain but cudnt do anything abt it and he had a better bowling unit. dhoni has been managing with a weak bowling attack and he is doing a solid job at that. so give him a little respect guys, he has made us pround on numerous occasions!

Posted by   on (November 13, 2011, 4:41 GMT)

M.S.Dhoni,perhaps,the most successful wicketkeeper-cum-Captain of the Indian Crickrt deserves every word of praise in the English Dictionary. the way he won the Test at Kotla against all odds shows the will power he possesses. The field placements & changing Bowlers he did was worth presiding. Especially, more was the Guts he had in handing over the ball to a Spinner instead of the conventional method of giving to a Pacer In the second Innings of the WI.This typical deviation from the usual practice worked in toto. the wickets of the WI openers fell soon after the game started to be followed by a collapse restricting them to a modest total of 180, giving India a chance to fight without surrendering.The rest was History Thanks to Tendulkar,Laxman &Dravid I am sure Dhoni would continue as Captain of the Team India for a long time to come Hip Hip Hurray! To TeamIndia Sreedharan.mundanat

Posted by RandyOZ on (November 13, 2011, 2:51 GMT)

Gilly is the only players to score at least 50 in 3 world cup finals. Dhoni is not even in the same plethora as gilly. Dhoni is in the same category as Sachin: flat track featherbed bully. 2nd innings specialist. The real Indian star is Rahul Dravid. He is one of the finest cricketers I have ever seen.

Posted by serious-am-i on (November 12, 2011, 21:07 GMT)

The problem we have in India is, when we have an excellent man behind the stumps we lack who bats. We desperately lack good wicketkeeper allrounders. I still remember Deep Dasgupta how he kept. He was more like Dravid in batting and worse than Dravid in keeping for a first choice keeper. The amount of balls that spilled out of his hand were higher than the no.of ones that stuck. If we decide to play MSD as a batsman, then we must find a good alternative keeper who is good both behind the wickets as well as good with bat, some one similar to P.Jayawardane from SL.

Posted by   on (November 12, 2011, 16:20 GMT)

msd's real test will start when india will start rebuliding the test team in 2012 or 2013 by then rd srt vvs and khan would have left plying for india. then we will see how good he is for exmaple ponting till he had good team he won everything and has rebulding starterd he started falling around and he's batting also suffred and he will be out of the team.it is easy to captain a side which knows how to ply it becomes rough when people are learning how to ply in differnt condation.

Posted by jay57870 on (November 12, 2011, 14:41 GMT)

(Contd) The secret to "Captain Cool" lies in his phenomenal Staying Power. By that I mean the intangibles, things that cannot be measured: leadership, practical intelligence, maturity, adaptability, concentration, work-ethic & will-power. Also, the physical endurance & mental toughness: ability to handle adversity & crises; to play through pain & injury; to bounce back from slumps & fatigue; and, yes, to face the constant scrutiny of media & public. This year exemplifies Dhoni's exceptional Staying Power through success & failure: taking charge in the WC triumph, holding an injury-afflicted team together through a humiliating English tour, rebounding with youth to a 4-0 redemption in ODIs. In a rare tribute, TIME MAGAZINE acclaimed Dhoni on the 2011 "The 100 Most Influential People in the World" list by citing "he's also India's captain of hope ... he also taught India how to win"! Like Sachin, who made the 2010 TIME list, it's up to MS on how long he wants to stay the long course.

Posted by jay57870 on (November 12, 2011, 14:26 GMT)

Dhoni is a rare, exceptional person: a diamond-in-the-rough who is discovered maybe once in a generation: He defies all odds. He's a small-town guy (Ranchi) emerging from a less-privileged family in a poor mining state (Jharkhand) with no strong cricketing ties or power (compare Bombay). A rare find, who rises to the top on pure merit & leads Team India to success in all 3 forms of the game (compare England with 3+ captains). And that too as a keeper, which is the most demanding of skilled positions in the team. It's not just the sore fingers or hands. Look at the # of baseball catchers with wrecked knees & backs. To top it all, he's a keeper-captain & a decent batsman to boot. To find a superlative to describe him, maybe Malcolm Gladwell's "Outlier" fits Dhoni the best: He's the beneficiary of "hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities ... that allow (him) to learn & work hard & make sense of the world in ways others cannot." Arguably, he's India's best captain ever. (TBC)

Posted by Aussasinator on (November 12, 2011, 9:34 GMT)

Dhoni is cricket's best captain, in the last ten years at least. His problem is too much cricket in all formats. He can manage it all if he is selective in playing some matches,in case the BCCI doesnt step in to reduce the cricketing workload forTeam India. Sore hands can vanish with a fortnight's rest but does he get that?

Posted by Azfar on (November 11, 2011, 21:32 GMT)

Dhoni will in due time will become the best Indian captain ever....better than Sourav Ganguly. I would say the he will join the league of the best captains ever - Frank Worrell, Ian Chappell & Imran Khan. I was especially impressed with the way he handled himself in the disastrous tour of England. He played all the matches even when he was losing players by the minute, kept trying till the end, kept his composure in the face of such crushing defeat. He showed that he has the ability to treat success and disaster alike. When England was rubbing it in he still had the grace to recall Bell. The man's character shown through in the tour of England. I am sure he will come out stronger and become an even better captain.

Posted by Alexk400 on (November 11, 2011, 20:24 GMT)

I am not a Dhoni fan. I am actually sehwagologist. But Dhoni has that intangibles that come only once in a life time. Sometime it looks like he got lucky.Yes he may be luckiest captain , what makes me think he is greatest captain is , somehow he unified the team with so much language , regional , sr,jr divisions. He let people play with freedom and express themself. He has that tremendous belief in himself if things go wrong he can fix it. He knows india's bowling is weak. He is not shouting at them instead he is silently telling them that they need to cherish to play for india and show up. He is tactically right 90% of time. No one is perfect. His obsession on RP singh and few buddies. He is not superman but as good as superman for India in leading indian team. India won world cup 2011, 2007 because of dhoni. India had better team in 2007 and they sucked under dravid, Dhoni brings that winning belief in the team. He would have never lost a match if he had one steyn in his team.

Posted by donda on (November 11, 2011, 17:41 GMT)

I think Dhoni is the best cricketer on planet earth. He plays every match, try to win every match. He is made of steel, he won every thing in 5 years. He cannot let go his wicket keeping because that is the lucky charm he has. Some people believe in discipline and hard work to stay at the top of the world. I still remember Imran Khan came 2 down in WC final and scored the best innings of his life to win WC because imran was hard worker , a self believer and disciplined man. A true leader , lead from front and take all the pressure and perform. Win or lose does not matter for Dhoni, he is fit, and a perfect man to lead india and keep too.

Posted by bigdhonifan on (November 11, 2011, 16:26 GMT)

Dhoni is better than Imran Khan any day as a Captain.. Imran had the best Pak bowling line up ever with some good Solid Batsmen and all rounders... What Dhoni got is good batsmen, out of form spinner, injured Zaheer with mediocre pacers (with no speed)....

Posted by ddc....... on (November 11, 2011, 15:20 GMT)

dhoni is d king of luck... he has got unlimited amount of luck dt doesnt seem to desert him at all

Posted by Alexk400 on (November 11, 2011, 13:34 GMT)

In Test Dhoni is there only for his captaincy and leadership skills. No one better. Until he gets tired , he should be the captain and can give wk duties to new blood. . But he should fill number 5 spot. And we have to draft new wicket keeper. PP, DK , SAHA alll sucks more than dhoni. So we have really no replacement yet.

Posted by Alexk400 on (November 11, 2011, 13:31 GMT)

People keep forgetting one thing. Same team under dravid was not doing that well. Dhoni makes indian team aggressive. He will always go for win if he have the odds in favour. India won most games in India. We all know indian middle order can pile up runs in slow pace. One of the key thing he did was give sehwag full freedom , that made indian team set up quick score and give indian bowlers ample time to close out opposition brick by brick. India could not do outside india because india lacks one quality fast bowler. DHONI is greatest CAPTAIN ever with limited tools. India is full of politics , he make indian team play for win , play together. Under ganguly team was very divided.Gamguly gang and the untouchables (juniors) in indian team. Also dhoni kept composure when india were losing badly 4-0 and he did n't blame anyone. That was great captaincy. He knew what was wrong. He did n't need to say. It was all out in open. Sachin can't play new ball and bouncy condition. when openers fail

Posted by   on (November 11, 2011, 13:24 GMT)

@ goutham Kumar .........Sick of ppl whining that Dhoni has risen only of luck , i do agree luck has had a say in his life but luck favours only the brave and ppl who don't depend on it .Dhoni has rose because he has not thought of the failures that may come but he had his eye on the success! Ashwin opening the bowling and doing really well was his idea and he is a very clever and strong captain too. And for ppl crying that that he is not a great batsman , don't look at just his stats , they just make him look great!!! look into the situations he has got them ( world cup finish for ex.) then you'll realize he is of legendary stature!!! and he is not bad with the gloves either, not great but reliable!!!

Posted by   on (November 11, 2011, 13:13 GMT)

born to lead from the front.....bleeeeeed blue

Posted by Full-Blooded-Wallop on (November 11, 2011, 12:22 GMT)

@randyoz- Exactly! Dhoni is miles ahead.He won 2 world cups and test no-1 ranking for a long time with such a weak bowling attack. Gilly was mediocre in odis and dhoni is BEST ODI BATSMAN. Only thing were gilly is a bit ahead, it test-batting, but the legend dhoni is ,he will soon rectify that too!

Posted by Pankaj_INDIA on (November 11, 2011, 11:04 GMT)

Dhoni is best captain after Imran Khan and Clive Lloyd and best ODI player after THE GOD.... India is lucky to have him as leader and captain.... he showed what can a man of his calibre do with avg bowling attack, taking team to no1 spot. and Ponting showed how miserable he is as captain even though having good bowling attack.

Posted by   on (November 11, 2011, 10:55 GMT)

@RandyOZ dhoni still has a better avg. against England in teats. do you know Gilly struggled with both bat and gloves against India, specially at home? that avg. of 29 vs India,has 2 tons both in India in 1st test of series - 2001 Mumbai(brilliant innings btw.), 2004 Bangalore , then struggling badly against India Spinners ,Even got out to Tendulkar and Sehwag lol. and he retired after dropping a catch. Your comment is strange - Gilchrist was only way ahead in batting (not against India though), that is all. not wicketkeeping.

Posted by Naresh28 on (November 11, 2011, 10:33 GMT)

PLEASE BCCI give this guy a rest. He is a born leader. Always tries to marshall his resources to the best of his abilities. He will be remembered for bringing the ODI world cup to India. Even he will admit it - having the likes of Sewag, Sachin.Gambhir,Laxman,Yuvraj and Dravid is a plus for any captain.Not forgetting the other young talent. Not forgetting the other retired stalwarts like Ganguly/Kumble. The list is endless. His next stage will be to see in the next Young Indian team in after the stalwarts retire. Gambhir and Raina likely to take over.

Posted by   on (November 11, 2011, 10:01 GMT)

he is a great captain.... but i think he should keep this factors in mind......

Posted by   on (November 11, 2011, 9:22 GMT)

@RandyOZ - As a test cricketer , absolutely! After Bradman and Sobers, Gilly is perhaps an automatic All-time Test World XI choice. As an ODI cricketer - they are certainly comparable ( at least at this point when Dhoni's avg is way above Gilly's and S/r being pretty comparable ) As a captain, Gilly has nothing on Dhoni! ..not even at club level.

Posted by RandyOZ on (November 11, 2011, 5:55 GMT)

This bloke has nothing on Gilly

Posted by Federerexpress on (November 11, 2011, 4:18 GMT)

Dhoni has definitely got a solid defense, but whats astounding is the fact that his defense(unorthodox as it may seem) seems to desert him when he plays tests. In ODI's, he has proven that he is the most reliable batsman, but when it comes to test cricket, its clearly got something to do with his ability to withstand the stress levels involved. That doesn't mean that Karthick is a good replacement, who has a great record in domestic cricket but fails miserably when it comes to the biggest stage.

Posted by SamRoy on (November 11, 2011, 3:55 GMT)

@igorolman Imran had it more than any one else. And certainly the legendary Frank Worrell. They are the real leaders of men.

Posted by   on (November 11, 2011, 3:50 GMT)

dhoni is lucky... nothing more, he not a grt wicket keeper, nor a grt batsman !!!!

Posted by deepak_sholapurkar on (November 11, 2011, 2:24 GMT)

By Captening and keeping in all format's of cricket, Dhoni is shortening his cricketing life. Even when specialist keepars are available in the playing 11 he does will not hand over the keeping. Ex: 1)Wriddhiman Saha played as a Specialist Batsman in a Test against SA 2)Parthive Patel plays as a specialist batsman in oneday/20-20 3)Same goes go Dinesh karthik Dhoni is better batsman than these , he can hand over the keeping to these guys when ever they are playing. Is he not doint that because he don't want to create the competation for his place...?

Posted by   on (November 11, 2011, 1:43 GMT)

There have been two captains in the history of cricket which have been awe-inspiring. Mahendra Singh Dhoni is one of them. The other was the great Imran Khan.

Posted by   on (November 10, 2011, 21:17 GMT)

he is a great leader and 1 of the best middle order batsman in ODI, b8 in tests he is an avg. player n wicket keeper....

Posted by Full-Blooded-Wallop on (November 10, 2011, 19:03 GMT)

@vjanandrajaram: Then who is better than him in tests? Tell by giving evidences.And for your information, series against england was his first loss anywhere! He hasn't played much overseas, then how can he won much? And he has won quite a good no of matches overseas also. Moreover ganguly has the same batting line up, and bowlers like srinath and kumble and also zaheer.What did dhoni have? An always injured zaheer and a hardworking praveen, an ineffective bhajji and 3-4 debutants.To all those who say dhoni has a great tea\m so he wins, then think a bit! Great team is not only about 3 master batsman, bowlers are eqaully important, which dhoni never had!

Posted by   on (November 10, 2011, 18:22 GMT)

What makes Microsoft Dhoni great is not his wicket keeping, not either his batting and of course not his karizma. It's the way he handles the situations, takes his responsibility and leads from the front in a typical captain's way. He builds up the atmosphere of the team and he communicates brilliantly. They say that the big players win big matches. We all had seen a glimpse of that from Dhoni in the World Cup finale. Microsoft Dhoni steps up his gears without stepping up his mind or body. He definitely has a cuddling kinda physique and frankly, looks a bit fat but he is fit despite being a bit of fat. He hasn't got those crazy wicket keeping skills and especially for the faster ones but he can take catches and do stumpings and that's all what matters for India. He may not show it but he's vicious from the inside and his game plan exhibits that. He knows that he has been given the charge and he sacrifices everything for that. As a result, he has become lot more flexible like Microsoft!

Posted by igorolman on (November 10, 2011, 18:09 GMT)

Dhoni's a so-so keeper and a hit-or-miss batsman (I'm talking about Tests here, because that's all I'm really interested in), and a lousy tactician. But what he is most of all is a leader of men. Players respond to him in a way that very few captains manage, and that's a great asset to have - Jardine had it, Brearley had it, Clive Lloyd had it. Not many others that leap to mind. But give the poor bugger a break from the ODI treadmill!

Posted by   on (November 10, 2011, 17:34 GMT)

NO MATTER CAN DIVERT MSD MIND HE HAS MASTER MIND ..........................................100 SACHIN = DHONI

Posted by inswing on (November 10, 2011, 17:29 GMT)

All Dhoni needs is rest. Rest from ODI and T20 cricket. Otherwise he is guaranteed to break down. And you don't want him skipping Test series to play more T20 and ODI cricket. Remove him completely from low-profile ODI games, and in other series, rest him once it is decided. Against England, he should have been rested after 3-0.

Posted by vjanandrajaram on (November 10, 2011, 17:29 GMT)

This comment is not against. This has been written purely in keeping the team in my mind. I think the selectors should find a new wicketkeeper batsmen for the tests, because i personally feel MSD being a weak link between the lower middle order and the lower order. His performance as a batsmen in the test team is very much questionable. Also we should see that the majority of the test wins under his captaincy has come in the sub-continent. Winning overseas actually came in the Ganguly's period. So MSD should captain the ODI and the T20'S and the Test captaincy should be given to Gambhir becuase we already have a problem with our No.6 and we don't another weak link in No.7. Actually now the tail starts from No:6. That's my point.

Posted by   on (November 10, 2011, 17:22 GMT)

Dhoni has been an exceptional and an inspirational captain, which is proved to say that he is being a part of the IIM management course as a case study for his outstanding captaincy. The most crucial part of his captaincy came during the India's tour of England this year and he handled himself with great composure. He knew that the tide post the storm always aides the brave sailor and you just have to be brave and the tide will take you to the destination. I think the next crucial juncture for Dhoni is when the seniors of the team retire and the mantle is taken over by the young brigade. I think re-building the team in the longer version of the game is one thing I am waiting for with bated breath. Kudos to Dhoni !!

Posted by Full-Blooded-Wallop on (November 10, 2011, 17:05 GMT)

And by the way those who are saying karthik is better batsman in tests then, karthik has played 23 matches and avg only 27?(mind you 23 is a large no of matches), while dhoni avgs 38...it was 42, 3 months back, but in last few matches he hasn't played good so. At present he is the best wicketkeeper batsman(for india) in Tests and BEST BATSMAN in odis( IN WORLD)...those of you who don't know, Dhonii avgs 77 with 1800+ runs in 33 matches he batted at no-3/4...if he would have continued playing on no-3 ,he may have broken all ODI records. But still some people are so ungracious. Even if he had done nothing, but A WORLD CUP is enough to respect him! DHONI-THE LEGEND!!!We true fans salute you and will respect forever!!

Posted by   on (November 10, 2011, 16:53 GMT)

india being number 1 in tests has more to do with the presence of tendulkar, dravid, and laxman in the side, and less with dhoni as captain..though i am not taking anything away from the role he has played. he might be an ordinary wicketkeeper, but he is shrewd enough to understand the game and lucky to have an exceptional retinue of batsmen in his team. in any game, luck is a factor you like it or not! there may be better wicketkeepers in india, but dhoni has matured well, and understands his responsibility (eg. world cup finals), and presently no other wk can match his batting strength! but yeah..definitely, to increase his shelf life, perhaps a greater role for vice captain on the field or other players will help out a lot!

Posted by HBK656 on (November 10, 2011, 15:49 GMT)

its really incredible the way dhoni has handled both captaincy and wicketkeeping... Truly a commendable thing that he has done it so efficiently for over 4 years now...

Posted by   on (November 10, 2011, 15:49 GMT)

@sudhakar86 dhoni was man of the series vs England (in England and in india).if u know this u wouldn't have said that dhoni is unfit in team.I agree that dhoni's style of batting is not appealing unlike every one else's in the team and his keeping is not up to the standards of gilly or sanga.this doesn't mean that he is unfit. More over sanga hasn't been keeping wickets in tests.first read the above article.what pardhiv and dinesh karthik have done when they were given chances to prove themselves.coming to captaincy, one has to prove himself on a long term scale to be a good captain.gambhir or raina done well in one odi series doesn't mean that they are pretty good than dhoni to captain the national team

Posted by zico123 on (November 10, 2011, 15:40 GMT)

if Dhoni wants to extend his international career as Captain-keeper-specialist batsman, he has to find time to rest his fatigued body, he has to skip IPL and CL seasons, if not full, atleast needs to sit out in few matches here n there.

Posted by   on (November 10, 2011, 14:59 GMT)

lol @ Dahsut and Sudhakar - He brought and brings calm leadership to India. Nobody ever questions his authority. He is not the best WK and he is not an extremely strategic captain - agreed! But that's 2 out of a 100 different things that a successful captain is measured by. Captaining India successfully for a long time is no joke - he is not only the best captain we have at the moment - he is also the best captain India has ever had (with all due respect to Kapil and Saurav). If you had a committee of international cricketers picking a world cricket team and a captain, I would be willing to bet my omelet breakfast that Dhoni would be the man picked for the job!

Posted by Alexk400 on (November 10, 2011, 14:56 GMT)

Greatest captain ever LIVED. If he had one fast bowler , india would have never lost any matches under him. Indian fast bowlers are awful. Namesake filling the spot. But he is very average wicket keeper. DK does better than him in TEST. Dhoni has lots of intangibles that makes him greatest Captain. EVery player in the team like him With all the north south , language , senior , jr divisions , he makes everyone feel good. The thing about Dhoni is every player respond to his call. What happened england was india lost focus because of sachin century hoopla in bouncy condition. Indian openers failed there by they put undue pressure on indian middle order. We all sachin can't play new ball in TEST. Dhoni has to do it as long as his body cooperates. Next captain probably Raina or gambhir.

Posted by   on (November 10, 2011, 13:49 GMT)

Seeing some of the idiotic comments here I'm losing my cool.Dhoni is the fittest cricketer in the current team and our best wicketkeeper batsman.Its up to him to decide whether he can handle both wicketkeeping and captaincy.

Posted by   on (November 10, 2011, 13:32 GMT)

What an outstanding article. Dhoni is a great example of a wicket-keeper captain however I love how this article has really analyzed the two roles and whether they are truly a good idea or not.

Posted by ponminnal on (November 10, 2011, 13:25 GMT)

Dhoni is a Great wicket Keeper, Great Batsman but Lucky captain

Posted by S4CHIN_IS_GOD on (November 10, 2011, 13:05 GMT)

@Sudhakar86. MSD is just not pure luck. hes the captain who rises to the occasion. you don't win world cup's, tournaments with luck. You win it with skills and leadership. Why is he unfit for the team? when do you seen him injured? Look at yuvi, sehwag, gambhir. all chickened out in ENgland. DHONI IS A LION AND HE IS A SHINE OF INDIA, JUST LIKE SACHIN. GIVE RESPECT TO HIM. cz of him India are a threating side in any form

Posted by Sudhakar86 on (November 10, 2011, 11:43 GMT)

@DAHSUT You are 100 % right. With a good pool of players even Gambhir had proved that he can win matches as a captain. The so called best captain in the name of Ponting is struggling for his place in the team. Take captaincy out of MSD he is 100 % unfit for the team. Kumar Sangakara,Adam Gilchrist are great Wicket keeping batsmen. Boucher,Healy are great wicket keepers. MSD nothing else other than pure luck.

Posted by Satmat1 on (November 10, 2011, 11:31 GMT)

Dhoni is a Don. He could retire tomorrow & forever be looked upon as an all time great...during his tenure as Captain India has won the T20 World Cup, the ODI World Cup & he guided India to the No.1 Test ranking. All the time his one day form in particular has been remarkably consistent & who will ever forget his magnificent match winning inns in the WC final on 2nd April this year. Truly one of the great inns ODI ever. For that inns alone he is a Legend. If there is one area he needs to improve upon its his test record as a batsman...he should have more than the 4 hundreds he has at the moment. But knowing the man's mettle Im sure he will improve on that

Posted by Sakthiivel on (November 10, 2011, 11:29 GMT)

@ DAHSUT : If you say Dhoni win with the player pool ? He win for India T20 WC 2007 and WC 2011, also IPL 2010,2011 and Champions league 2010 for CSK. That means he is a talented captain who manage players towards victory. All the victory came with different players in different seasons. That brings to the conclusion you comment is useless....

Posted by   on (November 10, 2011, 11:23 GMT)

Sorry @ Dahsut - you are speaking utter nonsense here (have you ever played cricket at a decent level?). Dhoni certainly does not have a classically pure batting or keeping technique, but he is incredibly fit, relies on his natural reflexes, and is probably the best captain the Indian team has ever had. He is not afraid to make mistakes, thinks out of the box, and is a great man manager. 'Useless wicket keepers' do not usually manage to claim the highest ever numbers of victims for their their country. I am not a MSD 'fan', but he is universally respected by cricketers across the world for the pressure he takes on. Credit where it is due.

Posted by expression_less on (November 10, 2011, 11:23 GMT)

Being a cool and calm captain helps your teammates ,but sometimes it requires the captain to communicate with his bowlers and fielders a bit more,specially when things are going out of control (runs are flowing or there is a long wicketless period)

Posted by   on (November 10, 2011, 11:01 GMT)

dhoni cn manage being da wk give him da advantage of captaining da side..well dhoni cnt play as batsman captain so it ill b waste of place. bt in odis he cn play as a batsman after sachin hees da best odi player.....

Posted by cheguramana on (November 10, 2011, 10:59 GMT)

A very good piece. After a long time, read something that was a fresh perspective on the game. Also, felt that purely objective and professional opinions were on offer - no axe to grind nor anybody releasing their autobiography :-))

But its time Dhoni really takes some time off from keeping. surely he belongs in the team as a keeper-captain. And it really is the Selection Committee which has to take a call -- why wait till a break-down such as the one in England ? Hope it doesnt get repeated.

Posted by   on (November 10, 2011, 9:24 GMT)

Its blessing in disguise for Dhoni and India that they don't have "extra-fast" bowlers like Lee, Akhtar, Syen etc. Otherwise it would have been too difficult for him to manage physically .

Posted by DAHSUT on (November 10, 2011, 9:16 GMT)

msd is one of the most useless wkt keepers that i have seen.we saw how poor he was with the gloves in england.i think that DINESH KARTIK is a way better wkt keeper and also a better batsman than dhoni is.HE IS ALSO A POOR CAPTAIN.IT IS JUST THAT HE IS LUCKY THAT HE WINS.he also wins because he has a great pool of players under him.if he is soo good where were his captaincy skills in england

Posted by S.Jagernath on (November 10, 2011, 8:55 GMT)

The BCCI should be resting him for lesser tours and be grooming his successor,Dhoni needs the break India often use Suresh Raina as captain while the seniors are away,but they are just dilluding themselves,he is not even a regular in the team and shouldn't be with the talent thats in India India need Dhoni to not play the 3rd test of the Windies series and no limited overs during the Aus tour That should fix the hands and have him around for test cricket

Posted by Micgyver on (November 10, 2011, 8:52 GMT)

Funny i was actually thinking about this today.Dhoni is certainly the ironman of Indian cricket.Captaincy,batting and keeping.At some stage though he is going to have to give the captaincy or gloves away.One thing irks me however is that India have more experienced players like Tendulkar,Dravid,Gambhir and Laxman who could easily lead the team and unburden Dhoni.But maybe they are all worried it might affect their batting which to me is quite selfish.

Posted by ultimatewarrior on (November 10, 2011, 8:09 GMT)

This was least expected from caliber of Sid Monga--- so pessimist about MSD.....I have just one question in my mind if somebody hasn't done wicket keeping/captaincy for long time, so MSD SHOULD NOT try this.....why.....if everybody will starts waiting for somebody else to do first than i will follow it........nothing will going to happen and everybody will sit down to follow....i take this case as MSD will give example to world cricket in the form of WK-Batsman-Captain as adam gilchrist has given example for WK-Batsman....there are always few firsts and numerous followers.....

Posted by kabe_ag7 on (November 10, 2011, 8:07 GMT)

@RandyOZ - Perhaps you mean 'like Ponting'. Sachin, on the other hand, is in midst of his best years and is justifying his continued selection on the basis of form.

Posted by stark-truth on (November 10, 2011, 8:03 GMT)

Well, if anything he should have rested from playing those IPL and Champions Trophy tournaments in order to focus fully on his national duty. If he breaks down in the middle of a series duty on national front, it would also be due to his desire to play in local 20/20 bashes..a captain should be more mindful and devote himself FULLY to the national cause.

Posted by   on (November 10, 2011, 7:25 GMT)

Its no coincidence that two of India's statistically most successful captains were perhaps also the fittest men to represent the country. Kapil Dev was one who never got dropped because of fitness. Now there's Dhoni. There will be criticism of his catching sometimes, or his test batting creds. But boy! just look at the sheer volume of cricket he plays. And the biggest surprise is despite all that, he never opts out of his workload, and he has rarely gone out because of injury either. Quite something!

Posted by stark-truth on (November 10, 2011, 7:25 GMT)

You can already see the toll captaincy has hd on Dhoni's hair! He used to have such a flowing maine and now reduced to a balding look...Indian cricket captaincy is definitely not a walk in the park.

Posted by   on (November 10, 2011, 7:24 GMT)

i simply say as a Psychologist...M.S.Dhoni is Lion at HEART in cricket ground and he is blessed with a Brain of scientiest..this i could observe personally when imet him in Chennai after his team was out of Champions leaguae..i simply rate him no.1 captain ...jai ho..

Posted by stark-truth on (November 10, 2011, 7:24 GMT)

I was there at that match....Latif actually missed two easy stumpings as well....was awful! and Hair was the umpire I think who denied a clear lbw near the end to Shoaib...

Posted by   on (November 10, 2011, 7:21 GMT)

The only thing which makes Dhoni a successful captain is because he is always taking risks and giving chances to each player for a long term. Basically i do not like his batting techniques and sometimes hes the the best wicket keeper at all but look at his batting avg. and rest just because hes a leader.

Posted by   on (November 10, 2011, 6:46 GMT)

Wow @pk_brisbane. I didn't realize how much workload Dhoni has had on him over this season. He should really rest his mind and body for a couple of weeks. In that England series, 11 players got injured. But Dhoni was there in every single Indian defeat. Must have completely deflated him, but he never showed it. And in the middle of all this, he has not gotten out in an ODI for quite some time now. Superman is the word!

Posted by Rukky on (November 10, 2011, 6:22 GMT)

He is really great sportsman i have ever seen. He is playing each and every format through out the year. That is so consistent. And even keeping wickets for so longs he is batting so well particularly in ODI's ...not out since last 7 ODI's...really great and fabulous.

Posted by   on (November 10, 2011, 6:17 GMT)

MS DHONI is toughest and v cool man and might be fittest ever Indian Wk batsman and player.he don't like other Indian who wasting time too much if bowler just hit a boundary he is a cool man and very good thinker too might be best ever captain India produce.

Posted by vswami on (November 10, 2011, 5:51 GMT)

In terms of mental fitness, he has to be one of the fittest cricketers in the world. Always answering questions from the media with poise and keeping his dignity by not making silly comments inspite of defeats in England must have taken a heavy toll on his mind. Tendulkar, Dravid are tough cricketers but couldnt take the pressure that came with the India captaincy job.

Posted by   on (November 10, 2011, 5:38 GMT)

Lucky Indian bowlers are slow.. if notdhoni 's hand would have finished by now..

Posted by RandyOZ on (November 10, 2011, 5:15 GMT)

Prolly last as long as he wants. He's like Sachin, his form doesn't matter. That's why India has such a poor cricketing record.

Posted by shrastogi on (November 10, 2011, 5:04 GMT)

Dhoni is an outstanding captain. His record as a oneday player is superb. He only needs to take that to his test batting which is at best average when compared to Gilchrist. He had difficulty in dealing with new ball and swing in England but still scored two 50's which shows that he can bat well in adverse conditions. India would need him to bat well in Australia and hence he needs to bat well in tests against WI. He could be rested during WI one dayers. Gone are the days when somebody could have been in the team just on captaincy. In those days there wouldnt have been any questionmark on Dhoni being in the test team.

Posted by shubham3 on (November 10, 2011, 5:00 GMT)

Well of Course , Its difficult to captain and keep at a same time.But when things go well for the team the both look good.But suddenly things start going bad like happened in England,the wheels comes off. So ,I believe Dhoni should at least leave T20 captaincy in international as well as in leagues as that at least that will give him some rest to his Sore Fingers

Posted by satish619chandar on (November 10, 2011, 4:52 GMT)

He is a machine.. He is the guy anyone can look upon as role model.. Whatever be the amount of cricket he plays and the amount of stress he gets, He does give all his effort(Even while failing) to his job.. LEGEND!!

Posted by kk777 on (November 10, 2011, 4:42 GMT)

Finally apart from us crazy fans some credible writer goes on to describe what a Herculean task Dhoni is performing... I am a fan of The GOD also that of The WALL but one has to admit that without Dhoni we couldn't have been where we are in these 4 years either in Tests or ODIs...Ganguly did lead with fierce killer instinct, in a way he was a conqueror but the kingdom could have been ruled by none other than Dhoni...Who else can soak the pressure of a billion fans, who else can manage Sehwag, Harbhajan, Yuvraj, Kohli and other such hot headed ones along with the veterans like Sachin, Rahul and Laxman...RESPECT

Posted by   on (November 10, 2011, 4:41 GMT)

I really doubt whether Dhoni could go on like this till the next world cup.The world load on him is too much,the number of tests,ODI's and T20's India play is exceptional.Add IPL to that.Dhoni also doesnt give the gloves to other Wicketkeepers like Parthiv(india odis) or Saha(CSK IPL matches) when they are in the team .He has amazed me how he has been able to carry so much work load but i am sceptical if into 30's his body can take that.

Posted by johnathonjosephs on (November 10, 2011, 4:38 GMT)

If anybody has noticed, this is already happening to Dhoni (at least in Tests). In the England series, he was not good at wicketkeeping and continuously dropped easy balls. He complained that he was not comfortable with the conditions. I noticed in recent games (1st test against West Indies), his wicketkeeping has been the same horrid form as they were in England. Don't think Dhoni can concentrate that much on wicketkeeping in Test formats (in ODI's he is the best stumper in my opinion).. 2 things Mr. MS Dhoni can do (and must do soon for India's sake): 1. Give up the captaincy and work more on wicketkeeping and batting (probably not going to happen in near future) 2. Give up wicketkeeping and focus on batting (like what Sanga did). For me, I think Dhoni should do the 2nd since his batting in Tests is horrid. He can continue to keep wicket in ODI's since he does a good job there. Keeping in Test Matches DRAINS your concentration out of your body (if you never tried it, take my word)

Posted by   on (November 10, 2011, 4:26 GMT)

Leaders are Inborn..!! Sadly Adam Gilchrist is not one of them he was one of the great wicket keeper-batsman of the game...!! On the other hand MS has both the skills....!! A bad series in England cannot predict he is not good wk keeper....!!

Posted by pk_brisbane on (November 10, 2011, 4:24 GMT)

Dhoni maybe an ironman, and the fittest and toughest player to play for india ever, but he is also a human being. he went from a long WC campaign, to a long IPL, to Windies tour (yes he did miss few ODIs), to a long england tour, to Champions League, to Eng ODIs, to Windies tour, after which he will jet off to australia for long tour. only break in between was when he missed ODIs in Windies. 3 days after winning the WC, he fronted the media to launch IPL. he is superman, but needs a break, possibly for Windies ODIS coming up so he can be fresh for crucial Aus tour.

Posted by sudhar.n87 on (November 10, 2011, 3:48 GMT)

It makes me wonder how Dhoni does everything under the sun in Cricket and still keeps going.

Posted by agam99 on (November 10, 2011, 3:24 GMT)

"He is a person who is playing each and every game; the only person in the team who is playing non-stop cricket. He can easily ask for rest, but he says this is his team."......Hats Off to MS Dhoni

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