What makes Mahendra Singh Dhoni a superstar

Dhoni, who turns 39 today, can drive a tractor in the city and yet look cool. He can play the helicopter shot as well as jump off a chopper.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni has always been a fan-favourite.   -  Akhilesh Kumar

Breathing fire, Shoaib Akhtar throws a bullet short of good length outside the off-stump, M.S. Dhoni goes on back-foot and slices the delivery. For a split second, the ball is in the air. The long-haired boy from Ranchi, in his fifth Test match and that too against arch-rival Pakistan, is sprinting like a bull.

Yousuf Youhana stops the boundary but Dhoni runs three to complete his maiden Test century in Faisalabad. Out comes the helmet, the coloured streak of hair falls on his face and the Ranchi boy raises his bat in the land of Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.

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A star was born in 2006.

Dhoni’s knock was no less than a Qawwali piece. It had the frills. The man hit 19 fours and four sixes in the 153-ball 148. The Pakistan bowlers were taken for a ride. The whole world was tripping on the unconventional batsman. The Indians were overjoyed to find an Adam Gilchrist-like player.

READ: Dhoni, a soldier of the game and armed forces

Who is Dhoni? Is he for real?

He can pick low full-tosses and send them over the fence. He can dance down the track against any delivery. He won’t smash all. At times, he would settle for a single and smile at the bowler. It means he deliberately chose not to hit the ball out of the park.

The bat swing, the semi-circle arch caused by the helicopter shot and dislodging the bails from behind are some of the factors that make him a superstar.

There are, of course, several instances to prove why his brand of cricket will remain even if he retires. Even before Virat Kohli instilled the fitness culture in the team, Dhoni wanted India to be a good fielding side. He is also the best DRS judge with a 95 per cent success rate. The bowlers have a hard time when he is not around. Kohli values his presence.

Dhoni does his homework because he understands the importance of maintaining the brand.   -  Vijay Bate

 

“He has been playing with a positive frame of mind. He is hitting the ball really well, and most importantly, he is getting a lot of backup and support from Virat (Kohli). If you have the support of the captain, then you just go out there and express yourself,” Suresh Raina had told Sportstar ahead of World Cup 2019, Dhoni’s last outing in blue.

Chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav credits  Dhoni for helping him read the pitch better. “When I started my career, I wasn’t good at reading the pitch. I learned about this aspect after I started playing with Dhoni. He would often tell me when I needed to spin the ball or where I needed to pitch it,” he was quoted as saying by ESPN Cricinfo.

Dhoni does his homework because he understands the importance of maintaining the brand. He also wants to win as a father and a husband.

READ: How the gamble of picking Dhoni as skipper paid off for Vengsarkar

It is not hard for him to find happiness. He can even drive the team bus from hotel to the stadium to lift his spirits. The last time India had a game in Ranchi, he drove the players around in his Hummer.  

It is difficult to imitate Dhoni’s style of play. Kedar Jadhav comes close but to be Dhoni, you need to get into the mind of the man.

“His mind is something that is to be wondered [at]. His mind and body connection is impeccable. At the end of the day, he decides when to score and when not to score. MSD is one of the naturally fit boys in the team. What he does [at training] is very, very smart and choosy. He knows exactly what he wants in his fitness regime, much like Sachin Tendulkar.

READ: M.S. Dhoni as leader means success: Albie Morkel

“He completely understands what his requirements are — batting and wicket-keeping requirements separately,” pointed out Ramji Srinivasan, former Team India trainer who was part of the World Cup 2011 contingent.

Keshav Ranjan Banerjee, Dhoni's school coach, had identified his 'keeping potential. The move that turned him into an overnight hero. His son, Swarnava, has an anecdote that can help read Dhoni better.

"Once Mahi bhaiyya's hook shot hit my head. He visited my father after many years and still remembered the incident. He realised I had grown up," he recalled.

Dhoni cares for everybody around him. If you meet the man, ask him about the cobbler outside Chepauk stadium in Chennai.

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