The MS Dhoni Boost For India's 2021 Men's T20 World Cup Hopes
Former captain MS Dhoni will be India's mentor at the 2021 Men's T20 World Cup in UAE.
No Sachin Tendulkar. No Rahul Dravid. No Sourav Ganguly. No Zaheer Khan. A greenhorn was in charge as India stepped out on the field for the first time in the 2007 T20 World Cup against arch-rivals Pakistan.
Long hair, disarming smile and a calm head on his shoulders. Apparently, it was Tendulkar who had suggested MS Dhoni's name to lead India in the inaugural T20 World Cup as the seasoned pros licked their wounds after the ODI World Cup debacle.
The match ended in a tie with India eking out a victory in a thrilling bowl out. With no burden of expectations, some fearless cricket and a humdinger of a final against the Men in Green, before long, the man with the long hair was standing on the podium at the Wanderers, holding aloft the maiden T20 World Cup trophy.
Since then, Dhoni has been a permanent fixture of the Indian unit in all the white-ball World Cups. He added two more trophies to the cabinet in 2011 and 2013 (Champions Trophy). Many heartbreaks were to follow.
Much like the 2015 WC, 2019 ended in anguish. Dhoni would never take the field in International cricket after that gut-wrenching run-out which perhaps snatched away another ODI World Cup trophy from India's hands.
The retirement came in typical Dhoni style and even as his bereaving fans flooded social media to plead for him to return, even the most hopeful knew that this was it for Dhoni in International cricket.
The upcoming T20 World Cup, to be held in the UAE and Oman, would have been Team India's first such white-ball event without Dhoni post 2007.
But it won't be.
As BCCI secretary Jay Shah revealed that MS Dhoni was to be in the role of a mentor with the Indian T20 World Cup squad, on Wednesday, 8 September, the fans were pleasantly surprised.
"As far as MS is concerned, I spoke to him when I was in Dubai. He agreed to be a mentor for the T20 World Cup only. I also discussed the issue with my colleagues and they are all on the same page. I spoke to captain and vice-captain and as well as Ravi Shastri and they are all on the same page," Shah said.
It was only this month that Shah, after failing to meet Dhoni in person due to the biosecurity protocols, ended up holding a virtual conference with the current CSK captain. As you would expect, it did not take Dhoni much time to agree to the proposal.
Understandably, the former Indian captain wanted Shah to check with captain Virat Kohli, vice-captain Rohit Sharma and head coach Ravi Shastri before taking the final call. But, given the chemistry which the current team management shares with MSD, it was a done deal.
Much like Australian head coach Justin Langer, the support staff and the team benefited from the presence of Ricky Ponting in the 2019 ODI World Cup as they were successful in making it to the semi-finals on the back of a horrid run, the Indian team would expect Dhoni's midas touch to do the job for them.
Not many can afford to doubt the tactical nous of the former Indian captain. There have been umpteen occasions in a his International playing career when Dhoni has produced a tactical masterstroke, be it handing the final over to Joginder Sharma ahead of Harbhajan Singh in the 2007 T20 World Cup final or promoting Rohit Sharma to open the batting in the 2013 Champions Trophy or coming to bat ahead of Yuvraj Singh in the 2011 ODI World cup final to tackle CSK teammate Muttiah Muralitharan.
Furthermore, spin is Dhoni's territory. Remember how he used Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin judiciously in the 2013 Champions Trophy to win India the title? Even now, in the IPL, when the pitch offers turn, Dhoni is completely in charge.
That India have as many as five spin bowling options in their squad with Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Rahul Chahar and Varun Chakravarthy making the cut, Dhoni certainly will have a role to play on the tactical side of things.
He is an excellent judge of the pitch as well and his input at the toss and in team selection will be vital. Of course, that is not to undermine the prerogative of captain Kohli or head coach Shastri, but the trio has known each other for long enough to have any tiff over disagreements, if any.
Dhoni is not a confrontational individual. It was for everybody to see that once he let go of the white-ball captaincy, he hardly interfered with Kohli and gave his two cents only when approached.
Kohli might come off as very aggressive on a few issues but even he has always had very kind words to say for Dhoni. Same is the case with Shastri. Vice-captain Sharma is highly reverential towards Dhoni as well and talks very highly of him.
Dhoni's retirement from International cricket has freed him up. It is a different kettle of fish being in the squad as a wicket-keeper batter, particularly when you are not being able to contribute handsomely with the bat and expressing your opinion.
Now that he no longer has any axe to grind in the matter, Dhoni will be able to put forth his suggestions comfortably, and to India's massive advantage.
A parting thought for the Dhoni worshipers. India already have three wicket-keeping options in Rishabh Pant, Ishan Kishan and KL Rahul in the squad. It will be reasonable to not fantasise the what ifs, even in the backdrop of COVID.
One knows that nothing is impossible in the MS Dhoni universe, but for once, cherish the development for what it is.
Subscribe To Our Daily Newsletter And Get News Delivered Straight To Your Inbox.