Cool Dhoni leads from the front

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Unflappable, and a man in touch with, and admired by, his team. That is Indian cricket captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Picture: Michael Sherman

Unflappable, and a man in touch with, and admired by, his team. That is Indian cricket captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

Importantly he is successful in leading the team, which would help him in the case of possible clashes with administrators.

Dhoni is extremely marketable, too.

Business magazine Forbes calculated Dhoni’s net worth as being in the region of $31.5-million as of June this year, of which $28-million came via endorsements.

Former South African captain Kepler Wessels has first-hand knowledge of Dhoni from the time he spent as coach of the Chennai Super Kings franchise in the IPL in 2008.

“From my time working with him at the IPL, he enjoyed his time away from cricket. He’d play and practice, but when he wasn’t playing he got away from cricket entirely, he likes his bikes and extreme sports,” Wessels remarked.

Dhoni has been one of the most successful captains in history, having led India to the top of the Test rankings in 2009, and to winning the T20 World title in 2007 and the 2011 World Cup. This season, India won the Champions Trophy in England, while the Super Kings have won the IPL twice and the Champions League T20 in 2010.

“He is able to play across all three formats and he excels in a pressure situation. In Indian cricket terms he is immensely powerful, all the players, the senior guys and the youngsters, listen to him,” Wessels said.

Part of Dhoni’s great success has been his ability to manage the transition of the Indian team from the era of Sourav Ganguly, Anil Kumble, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman to the current new generation of Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Ravichandaran Ashwin and Suresh Raina fairly seamlessly.

“When he took over as captain, he wasn’t a senior player and there were still guys like Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman and (Virender) Sehwag in the side – and he was smart enough to understand that he had to give them their own space. With this new generation, you look at someone like Kohli, he has been able to instil a lot of belief,” Wessels explained.

The calm exterior, though, can’t disguise from the fact that Dhoni is extremely competitive and keenly aware of India’s – and his own – place in history. Despite this being a shortened tour, it is still vital India are successful.

“He doesn’t get too emotional either, if they win he’ll be happy of course, but if they lose he won’t get angry with the players. However, he knows that for the Indian team to be respected, they have to win away. And he’ll want to achieve that, but he won’t get too carried away if they don’t,” said Wessels.

Dhoni is charming, humorous and intelligent. His teammates – young and old – love him, as does the Indian public, and while there is certainly a close bond with the much-derided BCCI president Narayanaswami Srinivasan – Dhoni is the vice-president of Indian Cements, a company run by Srinivasan – he has, mainly because of that engaging personality, and the success he has led various sides to on the field, stayed largely free from controversy.

There were reports of a conflict of interest earlier this year regarding his apparent shareholding in a management company that is also responsible for four players who are in the current Indian ODI side. However, again, his success with India meant not much came of those.

“I would be very surprised if he gets involved in the administrative side of things,” Wessels said. “He strikes me as someone who is just not interested in that. He plays his cricket, other than that he wants nothing to do with the rest of it.” - Cape Argus


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