The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Not just a captain, but a leader

Calcutta: For 21 years, Chetan Sharma’s last over in Sharjah (Austral-Asia Cup final) instantly came to mind when anybody spoke of India versus Pakistan face-offs in overs-specific cricket.

Not any more.

After Monday, a Sharma will still be talked about — the unassuming Joginder, who bowled the sensational last over in the inaugural ICC World Twenty20 meet.

Full marks to the 23-year-old from Rohtak for getting the dangerous Misbah-ul Haq and closing the Pakistan innings, but more credit to captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

For his courage in giving that over to Joginder. Surely, he wouldn’t have been forgiven had it backfired.

For his confidence in somebody who’d been forgotten after the Cuttack ODI against the West Indies, in January.

Dhoni had also given the last over to Joginder (“hungry to succeed at the international level”) in the semi-final versus Australia.

But, then, just about every Dhoni move clicked over the Twenty20 fortnight.

Dhoni has, of course, entered the record books internationally without captaining his state, Jharkhand, even once in a full-fledged national tournament!

It’s remarkable that the world is at Dhoni’s feet within three years of his India debut, on the December 2004 tour of Bangladesh.

Actually, there’s much in common between Kapil Dev (captain when we won the 1983 World Cup) and Dhoni. Relying on instinct is one, staying positive and not lacking guts being some of the other traits.

Dhoni’s decision to use the slower bowlers in the bowlout against Pakistan proved a masterstroke in the group stage.

Well, it was a pointer of things to come.

Very smart, for example, was the move to promote Rohit Sharma when an in-form Yuvraj Singh couldn’t take the field in the must-win match versus South Africa.

The Mumbaikar pocketed the MoM award.

Including Yusuf Pathan, and not the experienced Dinesh Karthik in the final, was also brilliant as the Pakistanis would’ve planned for Karthik replacing the injured Virender Sehwag.

Yusuf (MoM Irfan’s elder brother) didn’t set the awesome Wanderers on fire, but scored at a strike-rate of almost 200.

As with his XIs and bold bowling changes (not to speak of aggressive fields), Dhoni made a statement by not competing with Yuvraj whenever they batted together.

That’s the sign of a leader, who is comfortable with teammates expressing themselves, not only a passionate captain.

“Throughout the Twenty20, the players looked enthusiastic and energetic. Being the captain, Dhoni has to be given credit... I saw a happy-looking team,” former captain Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi told The Telegraph.

He added: “Earlier, I’d felt Dhoni shouldn’t be made the one-day or Test captain in a hurry, but reflecting after such a successful Twenty20 campaign, I think the selectors did well by retaining him for the ODIs...”

A warm compliment from arguably India’s greatest captain.

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