This piece was published in Sportskeeda
The amount of criticism Mahendra Singh Dhoni faced in the last fifteen months has been immense. Critics were baying for his blood pertaining to his Test captaincy and his batting form in the longer version (critics, however, have no complaints about his captaincy and batting form in the ODIs and T20s).
There was a clamour for his removal as Test captain largely because the general perception was that he hasn’t done anything of note beyond wicketkeeping and leading the side to merit a place in the Indian Test side. His regular habit of pinning the blame on his batsmen whenever our batting line-up misfired without including himself in the ‘failed group’ hasn’t really gone down well with cricket lovers as well as with some of the former cricketers.
One can’t blame the cynics for going hard at Dhoni. Going into the Chennai Test, Dhoni has scored 861 runs from 28 innings in 16 Tests with just one century and six fifties. His last century came against West Indies at Kolkata in November 2010.
The Ranchi lad was unable to lead any lower-order resistance during the exacting tours of England and Australia where India were handed 4-0 series defeats.
During the England tour of 2011, Dhoni did notch up two seventy-odd scores; while on the 2011-12 Australia tour, Dhoni cut a sorry figure save for a fifty in Sydney.
The 2012-13 domestic season has been a bit of a mixed bag for Dhoni. Two half-centuries in the two-match Test series against New Zealand was followed by a period of struggle before he got a fighting 99 against England.
Given this scenario, no one expected Dhoni to set the Chepauk on fire when he walked in at the fall of Sachin Tendulkar’s wicket.
When Dhoni first arrived on the Test arena, I always harboured the hope that he can do the kind of damage Australian Adam Gilchrist did given the range of shots the Indian captain possesses.
I have seen on umpteen occasions how Gilchrist used to rescue Australia by taking the opposition attack by the scruff of their neck when their top-order have come a cropper.
So many times, we have seen Gilly stride out at number seven and blaze away without caring whether the wicket was a belter or a green-top.
Dhoni hasn’t quite been able to do that for India. But his power-packed knock of 224 took many by surprise – this knock might give Dhoni the self-belief he probably needs to come up with such audacious stuff on a regular basis.
We all knew that Dhoni has a wide repertoire of strokes coupled with a great temperament. Yes, he can be iffy against the moving ball or the deliveries fired at his rib-cage but such kinks can be sorted out by long sessions in the nets.
The tour of South Africa is coming up later this year and billion Indian fans would tag Dhoni as a ‘batsman for all conditions’ only if he can come up with knocks close to the Chennai one in South African conditions. I strongly desire to see such a blitzkrieg from Dhoni’s bat outside the sub-continent.
I’m no way taking away anything from Dhoni’s 224 against Australia. Like any cricket lover, I was thrilled to bits smacking the Australian bowlers.
I strongly feel that a similar knock outside the sub-continent would be an ideal critic-silencing move. Or else he would be known as a ‘flat track bully’.
The 224 at Chennai could pan out to be a career-defining one for Dhoni. We want to see more such sizzling stuff from the Ranchi hero – nothing like it if such knocks are essayed in Australia, South Africa, England and New Zealand, where Dhoni is throwing caution to the wind when the bowlers are in full cry.