Sunil Gavaskar: 'MSD’s trust in his instincts sets him apart'

M. S. Dhoni just makes the players want to try something extra for him which very few captains in the history of the game have been able to get out of their teams.

Sounding board: With M. S. Dhoni as the mentor, the expectations from Virat Kohli-led Team India at the World T20 have gone even higher.   -  PTI

Chennai’s stunning comeback to win the title after missing out on a playoff spot last year — for the first time in IPL history — tells you how fortunes change ever so quickly in this format of the game.

There were no major changes to their squad, but you could sense a new determination and desire to make up for last year’s show and make it up to their loyal fans. The fact that the first half of the season was played in India no doubt helped but when they regathered in the United Arab Emirates it was as if they had never been away from each other for the last four months or more.

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The gelling was immediate, and they showed their intent by beating the defending champions Mumbai in their first game of the second half of the tournament. They then had a patch where they lost three matches which they should have won and looked vulnerable. That is when the leadership of M. S. Dhoni came to the fore. In the first qualifier, where Chennai looked down for the count, he walked into bat ahead of the in-form Ravindra Jadeja and smashed the winning runs in no time to take the team to the finals. That’s what leadership is about — he was not in the best form, but he knew he had to show the way and he did so brilliantly.

Over the years this has made MSD the leader that we all wish we were. The instinct to do a particular thing at a particular time can be rewarding sometimes and not so at other times. But to stay cool when it doesn’t go your way is what makes MSD stand tall. He just makes the players want to try something extra for him which very few captains in the history of the game have been able to get out of their teams.

Now that he has agreed to be the mentor to the Indian team for the ICC World T20 Cup the expectations have gone even higher. Clearly with the IPL just finishing India will be the favourite since the Indian players will be acclimatised to the weather as well as pitch conditions more than that of other teams. Yes, there are players from other countries in the IPL, but not all of them have played the number of games the Indians have and so they might need some time to settle down and this ultra-short format of the game is such that an over or so can change the momentum and the game from where it’s hard to recover.

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There was no need to even clarify that MSD won’t be paid a rupee for being the mentor of the team. He is someone who will never forget that what he is today is only because of Indian cricket and so whenever Indian cricket needs him, he will always be there. So, the question of him asking a fee is ridiculous, to say the least. That would not even enter his mind. If the others around him learn this lesson, then Indian cricket will benefit. If the others just remember that what they are today is simply because of Indian cricket, then they will continue to strive every muscle to take Indian cricket to even greater heights. Yes, their talent is God-given but the opportunity to show that to the world and make a living out of it is due to Indian cricket and hopefully, they will never forget that. Most even find their life partner thanks to where Indian cricket takes them and this also should not be forgotten.

Pakistan is another team that will be familiar with the conditions as they have played most of their cricket in the UAE for the last decade or so. Even the Pakistan Super League till last year was played on the three grounds where the ICC World T20 will be played. Australia have never won this Cup and they will look to add it to their trophy cabinet. The West Indies have won it twice so with their natural flair and power-hitting they will be a dangerous team indeed. England after winning the 50 overs World Cup in 2019 will be formidable as they have a fine team despite the absence of Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer. Their captain Eoin Morgan's form is a worry, but his leadership skills were once again seen in the IPL where he lifted Kolkata from a hopeless position when the event was in India to the runners-up position in the desert.

New Zealand will be the dark horses once again as they have this enviable ability to stay under the radar and keep springing and surprising their opponents with sheer determination and resilience.

So, after a heady finale to the IPL could we be in for an even more intoxicating ICC T20 World Cup?

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