Monday, September 8, 2008

Graduate Dhoni

The elegant Mahendra Singh Dhoni has earned name and fame at an early age. He is superb in cricket as well in world of commercials, too. Team India captain is a youth icon and symbol of Youngistan, to use a term from the ad world. And, of course, the prince of Ranchi has millions of rupees in his account now. But the 27-year-old now wants to be a graduate, too. Why? The team's hectic schedule has only a short break (because of the postponement of the ICC Champions Trophy) but Dhoni seems to be determined to secure his graduate degree. Cricket's scholar is keen to have degree in commerce. In fact, he eventually wants to get a Master's in Business Administration. But, the question remains: Why? Dhoni has been facing a problem getting admission in college. But, he didn't lose hope. And, after all, he got admission in Ranchi's prestigious St. Xavier College. The University Vice-Chancellor has confirmed this news. Giving permission for taking part in examination from Chennai, the college has also shown some kindness to its most popular student. But, the question remains. Why is Dhoni so eager to complete his graduation? Well, this is something different in Mahendra Singh Dhoni. He belongs to Jharkhand, one of India's smallest and most backward States. It looks as if the skipper of Indian team has some questions to ask of himself. Though, he has seen huge success as a cricketer, he wants to be a long playing record in life. Clearly, he understands the importance of education. Perhaps, he has some sub-conscious thoughts about his educational background. As far as I am aware, Dhoni's family does not have strong educational credentials. And it appears that the feeling of becoming a graduate will be the ultimate for Dhoni. And he has the passion to realise it at any cost. Otherwise, who can think of writing examinations despite hectic cricket schedule?
Dhoni is an inveterate, as his ads suggest. Becoming graduate is also his one of the dreams. This is something, which makes him very, very special as a human and not just as a cricketer. Will Dhoni hit a six in academics, too?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Yuvraj Singh Faces Career's Toughest Test

The elegant Yuvraj Singh has never been in such a difficult phase of his long career. After just one flop series in Sri Lanka, some have heartlessly brought his career under the scanner. Coach Gary Kristen's statement about Yuvraj's fear of failure has only added fuel to the fire against the left-handed batsman.

In his eight years on the international stage, Yuvi has been on top of his game in one-day cricket nearly all time. But, suddenly one series has raised question marks on his skills and his fate, for good measure. He made just 72 runs in six innings in Sri Lanka, unable to break the duck twice. The mystery spinner Ajantha Mendis was his Nemesis, dismissing him four times in five games.

Clearly, Yuvi would like to forget this series at the earliest. And there is good reason for that. His flop show in the one-day appears to have dented his self-confidence. And the waiting can only add to his worries.

India takes on Australia next month in the Tests – and had he found form in the one-dayers, he may have been staking a serious claim for a batting berth in series. He will now have to wait for either some batsmen to fail miserably for him to get into the squad or be patient till the one-day series against England comes up.

During that one-day series, Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendlkar, Gautam Gambhir Suresh Raina and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni can be expected to take five of the six batting slots. Yuvraj will be left to fight it out with the likes of Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, S Badrinath and Robin Uthappa.

Needles to say, Yuvi has a fantastic career record. And he has proved his credentials often in crucial times. But, this time around, the selectors appear to have plenty of options. Yuvi must definitely get a chance in next series but I believe he will be under pressure to perform. He lost his confidence under pressure and if he were not to regain that soon, his fate will depend on luck.

I believe he has it in him to bounce back from the situation and help himself rid of the doubts that cloud his mind. In fact, I believe all his fans will get together and tell him: "Hey Yuvi, forget Mendis and forget Sri Lanka. You are blessed with so much natural talent. You can do it man, you can do it."

It will be fascinating to see how he copes with the crisis of having fallen from being one of India's most revered batsmen to being another bundle of doubts. They say that a man's character is tested the most by challenging situations. Yuvraj Singh has been known to be a fighter and can come through the test stronger.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Mahendra Singh Dhoni as Test Team Captain

Mahendra Singh Dhoni has only one Test century to his credit so far. Having only been around three years in Test cricket and having played only 29 Tests, this young man from Ranchi has just got a shot in the arm to becoming skipper of Indian Test team as well. Already the captain of T20 and one-day teams, Dhoni has got the vote of confidence from coach Gary Kirsten.

Kirsten's statement highlighting Dhoni's credentials come in the wake of the Indian team's recent loss in Sri Lanka under the leadership of Anil Kumble. The squad included master's of the game: Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Sourav Ganguly. Not to forget the attacking Virendra Sehwag. The golden middle order proved a super flop despite the good starts the Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir gave the team.

Dhoni was not with the Test team as he was allowed to take a break from the hectic schedule but returned to lead the ODI squad to a historic series win in the Island. He played extremely well in this series and played the triple role – captaincy, batsmanship and wicket-keeping – with grace and confidence.

Needles to say the suggestion that Dhoni is quite ready to lead the Test team is also natural at this time. He has already proved that he is very capable of handling the pressure of international cricket, becoming a more responsible batsman during captaincy. His batting average is a good yardstick. As captain, he averages around 55 with the bat and compares favorably with the 44.23 he had before getting this responsibility.

Not convinced yet? Look at another piece of statistic. In 84 ODIs before becoming captain, he made 14 half centuries but, despite appearing to bat at a lower gear, he has made 10 half centuries in 36 one-dayers as captain.

In fact, Dhoni has handled this crucial job very calmly and that's the beauty of this young man's game. Kirstem has got it absolutely right: India's ODI and T20 skipper is now ready to take over the mantle of Test captaincy from Anil Kumble. It's not easy job for Dhoni but the time is quite ripe for the transition to happen.

Dhoni is in superb form and has great support within the team. Most players in side have already played under his captaincy in ODIs and shouldn't find it tough to adapt. Yet, this move can make it more hectic for Dhoni. But, I believe Dhoni will respond well to the responsibilities that he is given.

He looks more mature and plays a better, if less exciting, brand of cricket. The journey that began by winning the ICC World T20 in South Africa has seen him find success in the CB Series in Australia and now in Sri Lanka. Yes, let us give him the chance in Tests, too. What do you think?
- Piyush
(Author is a journalist and associated with a popular sports portal)