One of the driving forces behind India’s recent success in the shorter formats of the game has been the mercurial MS Dhoni. Playing the waiting game and timing his innings to perfection were the hallmarks of India’s captain cool. Whether it was hitting the winning six of the 2011 World Cup final or pushing India over the finishing line on umpteen occasions, Dhoni was the man who always delivered in crunch moments. Who can forget Dhoni’s heroics in July 2013, where he singlehandedly won a tri-series final in West Indies against Sri Lanka on a devil of a wicket? He unleashed a flurry of sixes in the final over to seal the deal for India. The aura of invincibility seems to have worn off considerably in recent times.
The past one year has been particularly harrowing for Dhoni, time and again he has come <g data-gr-id="30">to </g>a cropper trying to finish games for India and Chennai Super Kings. At Green Park on Sunday the stage was tailor-made for MSD. It was agonising to watch rookie South African <g data-gr-id="32">Kasigo</g> <g data-gr-id="33">Rabada</g> hold his nerve and deny Dhoni and India a match that seemed well within their grasp. Suddenly the spotlight has shifted to Dhoni, the batsman. Questions are being raised on whether he fits into the ODI scheme of things. It is something that seemed unthinkable even a year back. Dhoni has the dashing Virat Kohli breathing down his neck. The Big Two hasn’t been on the best of terms to put it mildly. Dhoni even took a veiled dig at Kohli’s brand of aggressive cricket at a recent media briefing, stopping short of actually naming him. In better times, such observations against Kohli would have possibly been brushed aside lightly. But, that was then, and a lot has changed. Dhoni had a powerful backer in former BCCI boss M Srinivasan whose position in the present dispensation is uncertain. Dhoni needs to let his bat do the talking soon, or the knives may be out for him.
Cricket like any other sport is a mind game. Battles are won or lost in the mind. Dhoni’s greatest strength was his mental fortitude in moments of crisis. Somewhere that belief seems to have been shaken. Time is running out for India’s best captain. Indian cricket fans can be unforgiving, Dhoni would know this only too well.