Monday, October 29, 2007

The Hindu editorial on Dhoni

editorial in the hindu, september 20
The right choice
The appointment of M.S. Dhoni as captain of the Indian one-day cricket team for the home series against Australia and Pakistan is commendable. While the selectors had few other choices - apparent from chairman Dilip Vengsarkar's statement that the decision took all of five minutes - Dhoni staked his claim on merit. Already, in his three years as an international cricketer, the 26-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman has shown the ability to adapt quickly without divorcing his instincts. Former coach Greg Chappell identified very early Dhoni's cricket intelligence, both intuitive and conscious. That Dhoni has captivated the masses with his mix of rustic unorthodoxy and native shrewdness, and won the confidence of his team-mates with his preternatural calm under pressure, illustrates why he is such an attractive option. He has kept clear of the lapses in discipline that have compromised the captaincy aspirations of other young Indian cricketers. Dhoni of course needs time to grow. Former Indian captains have alluded to how dealing with the game's capricious administrators, handling the intrusive media, and coping with the fickle public can take their toll. For all his success with the bat (a Test average of over 36 and an ODI average of over 44) and his mental strength in keeping effectively despite struggling, Dhoni isn't yet a world-class wicketkeeper. Rather than rush him into Test captaincy, the selectors must give themselves time for assessment. The highly respected Anil Kumble, who deserves more than filling a vacancy, is our editorial choice for leading India in the significant Test series against Pakistan and Australia. In judging Dhoni, the selectors would do well to consider why his elevation from Twenty20 captaincy was necessary. The decision of Rahul Dravid, not one ever to shrink from a challenge, to step down is an indication of both the attendant pressures of the job and his honesty. Dravid said captains had shelf lives; the demands of modern-day cricket, he noted ruefully, were shrinking these shelf lives. Further, the strains of captaincy had just begun to affect his excellence with the bat. Dravid timed his exit well, even if he denied himself a chance to be celebrated as a great captain by leading the side successfully in Australia. The upstanding Bangalorean will be remembered as a sound, intelligent, and intense captain. Contrary to popular perception, he was tactically more aggressive than Sourav Ganguly; however, for a variety of reasons, he wasn't as successful in managing the system. Yet under Dravid the team transitioned from one that won Tests abroad into a side that won series abroad. He remains one of only two Indian captains - Ajit Wadekar is the other - to have won Test series in the West Indies and England.

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