Dhoni gets it right


The Indian skipper handled the media with aplomb when asked to compare his team’s World Twenty20 triumph with that of Kapil Dev’s men in the 1983 World Cup.

After India’s nail-biting win in the final of the ICC World Twenty20 tournament the Indian skipper was asked to compare his team’s triumph with the 1983 World Cup win by Kapil Dev’s men. What has been most impressive about Dhoni is not only his cool demeanour under pressure, but the disarming manner in which he can react to a potentially explosive question. It can never be a practised and acquired skill but one that comes naturally. With so many news chan nels and newspapers and magazines vying to get their TRPs and circulation soaring and looking for a peg on which a story can be developed, it is extremely tough to be the captain of the national cricket team or for that matter a public figure in India nowadays.

Visitors to India find that out the hard way, but because they are here for only a short time they are spared the mess, which is sometimes created for neither rhyme nor reason. A stray comment or a remark can make headlines and those in India are mostly aware of this. But the foreigners don’t always know, when they are asked to react to something, whether such a comment has been made at all or has just been made up in order to get a reaction that will keep the story going further.

So, when Dhoni smartly said he was only two years old at the time of the 1983 World Cup triumph and did not remember much of it, the media was not going to let him off easily. But Dhoni played safe by saying comparisons between the two triumphs was simply not on as they were in different eras and in different formats of the game. That was nifty footwork from the Indian skipper, for if he had indulged in any comparison he would have been on a sticky wicket.

The only realistic comparison in sport is when you play the same opposition at the same time. That’s when you know who the champion is or who the better player or team is. In cricket it is even more so as the conditions change from country to country, even venue to venue and session to session. You can only compare players from the same team and not from different teams. So a Hayden and a Ponting can be compared, but not a Hayden and a Dravid because they are playing bowlers of different quality even in the same match.

That the Twenty20 format is different from the 50-over format, which again is different from the Test format, is obvious and so any comparison is going to be dicey. The lesser the number of overs, the better the chance for even low-ranked teams to surprise the higher ranked ones. This is simply because the margin for recovery is much less than in the longer games.

Champion teams invariably find a way to get back into the game when they have the time and the overs to do so. It’s virtually impossible to corner good teams in Test matches because even if they have had a bad session or two, they can bounce back. Similarly, in a 50-over game a good team has a chance to recover the lost ground of a few bad overs, whether batting or bowling.

However, as the ICC World Twenty20 showed us, it wasn’t always easy to come back into the game even if there were just a couple of bad overs. That’s why a team like Zimbabwe with plenty of newcomers was able to surprise Australia in the tournament. It’s even more hazardous for such teams in a shorter format like the six-a-side tournament where sides like Hong Kong have beaten the top teams.

Thus, though the Indians humbled the Aussies in the Twenty20 format, they found the world champs too hot to handle in the 50-over version of the game.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni was therefore quite correct in refusing to be drawn into comparing the two champion Indian teams. His team’s performance was thrilling and has given rise to a belief that under him the Indian team will go places. Yes, there will be hiccups playing against the world champs, but there are more chances of the Indian team winning against the other teams than ever before.

The Indians will be playing a lot against Australia over the next few months and there is plenty to learn from the world champs. If they can pick up a few valuable lessons, then it will go a long way in making the team a consistent winner in all formats of the game.