Crescent Kashmir

Dhoni changed whole face of Indian cricket, says Misbah

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SOUTHAMPTON: Pakistan head coach Misbah-ul-Haq said Mahendra Singh Dhoni had ‘changed the whole face of Indian cricket’ after the former captain announced his international retirement on Saturday.

Dhoni, a 39-year-old wicket-keeper/batsman, is India’s most successful skipper, having played a starring role in their 2011 World Cup final win on home soil and also guided them to victory in the inaugural T20 World Cup final and the Champions Trophy.

“He’s a big name in Indian cricket, he’s served Indian cricket very well,” Misbah, who played against Dhoni, said after the third day’s play in the second Test between England and Pakistan at Southampton was washed out.

Misbah added Dhoni, known for his unflappable demeanour at the crease, had altered the mentality of the Indian team.

“One of the greats I think, the way he changed the approach and especially he achieved so much for Indian cricket, winning the World Cup, winning the Champions Trophy, winning the T20 World Cup,” said Misbah.

“He’s got all the trophies in his bag,” added the former batsman, a member of the Pakistan side that suffered a dramatic five-run defeat by arch-rivals India in the 2007 World Twenty20 final in Johannesburg.

Dhoni was also renowned for his ability under pressure, a talent he demonstrated during his 91 not out against Sri Lanka in the 2011 World Cup final in Mumbai where he sealed a six-wicket win in style with a towering six off Nuwan Kulasekara after promoting himself up the batting order.

“He was such a cool captain on the outside, but from the inside such an aggressive player,” said former Pakistan skipper Misbah, who also paid tribute to Dhoni’s qualities as a tactician and man-manager. “He was such a ‘shrewd’, you could say, captain — the way he handled the team, the way he just developed the team and changed the team from seniors [senior players], brought up some juniors.

“He changed the whole culture of the team, the whole face of Indian cricket — a wonderful servant of the game.”

Misbah added that under Dhoni the national side had gone on to greater heights than even the celebrated team captained by Sourav Ganguly, now the president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India.

“He was the one name who really took Indian cricket from wherever Sourav left the team and then from there on he did wonders for Indian cricket,” said Misbah. “Such a wonderful person and a very, very good captain.”

Former England captains Michael Vaughan and Nasser Hussain described Dhoni as arguably the greatest white-ball skipper in the history of the game.

“What an incredible international career. You could argue the greatest ever white ball captain & finisher,” tweeted Vaughan.

Hussain also praised Dhoni’s ability to finish a game in style.

“A great captain, probably the best white-ball captain there has ever been,” Hussain told Sky Sports. “And also a cool, calm customer under pressure; a great finisher of a game, the game wasn’t won until you got Dhoni out.”

Australian spin great Shane Warne was another admirer of Dhoni’s phlegmatic brand of leadership.

“He had a calmness about him that was fantastic and he always got the best out of his team…” Warne told Sky Sports. “His players really respected him and responded to the way Dhoni wanted to play the game.”

Warne also extended a public invitation to Dhoni to play next year in The Hundred, English cricket’s new short-form competition, where he has taken on the role as head coach for the London Spirit.

“I just wonder if I could get him down to the London Spirit next year for The Hundred,” Warne said. “I might put out a call to see if he wants to play at Lord’s. I’ll find the money, MS!”

Cricketers from across the globe and Indian media paid tribute to the glittering career of Dhoni, who was fondly called ‘Mahi’ by his team-mates.

“One of the true legends of Indian cricket and one of the greatest captains, congratulations on a great career MS Dhoni! All the best for your future,” former Pakistan skipper Shahid Afridi said on social media.

“M.S. Dhoni is one of the all-time greats of the game,” International Cricket Council’s chief executive Manu Sawhney said in a statement. “He has inspired a whole generation and will be sorely missed.”

The Times of India splashed across its front page: “The end of an era: Dhoni calls it a day, Mahi way.”

Published in Dawn, August 17th, 2020

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