COLUMN: MS Dhoni Might Not be The Best IPL Captain By The Numbers, But Numbers Do Lie

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© Provided by News18 COLUMN: MS Dhoni Might Not be The Best IPL Captain By The Numbers, But Numbers Do Lie

Great players are often judged by their numbers. The moment you think about the greatest-ever batsman in the history of the game, Sir Donald Bradman is indisputably there because no one has ever challenged his staggering average of 99.94. Similarly, Sachin Tendulkar has a special place in the record books because of his hundred hundreds; the Master Blaster is considered among the most complete batsman of the modern era.

MS Dhoni, by winning all the coveted trophies of the ICC in white ball format, too has left an indelible mark in cricket. But simply by the numbers, he is still not the best. Mumbai Indians’ Rohit Sharma is ahead of him, he has one more IPL title in his trophy cabinet than Dhoni. But that’s not true is it? Numbers do lie! We all know what a mark MS Dhoni the Captain has left in the shortest format of the game.

Let’s take his win percentage as CSK captain. It is 40! However, that could have been easily 80 had the lady luck been on his side.  CSK lost two close finals: Rajasthan Royals(2008) and KKR (2012). Besides, Dhoni the skipper also lost to Mumbai Indians to narrowest margin of one run twice (once for Pune and once for CSK).  And, of course, there was two titles in the Champions League as well which nobody now remembers.

Dhoni is an outlier in this T20 generation where millions of dollars are spent on data analytics. He remains unapologetically old school where the instincts of a captain are supreme.

“Dhoni’s equanimity meant that he understood the uncertainty inherent in T20 cricket and avoided overreacting to defeats, giving Chennai the best chance of sustained success,” argues the authors of ‘Cricket 2.0’–inside the T20 revolution. You can’t disagree.

It was his instincts that CSK picked Shane Watson in 2018 auction after Royal Challengers Bangalore released the Australian. Despite an ordinary run in that season, Dhoni’s support for the Australian opener was unflinching. Later ‘Watto’ repaid the faith with a blistering knock in the final. Another recent example could be England all-rounder Moeen Ali, who too like Watson, was discarded by RCB. His cameos played a huge part in CSK becoming champion once more. Moreover, the 37-year-old has also backed his former India team mate Robin Uthappa who was ‘finished’ according to the critics. His knocks in the last two games of the season didn’t go unnoticed.

But what about tough decisions? Dhoni excels here too. When it came to dropping Suresh Raina from the playing XI, he did that nonchalantly. Very few people expected this given the brotherly bonding they shared.

Let’s not forget that CSK finished at seventh spot last year. To make a comeback from that position speaks volumes about the flexibility of Dhoni’s mindset. “By the end of 2019 IPL, Dhoni had played 862 matches at professional level in all formats and captained in 547 of them: only eight players in the history of the game had captained more often, this vast memory bank of experience gave Dhoni a mind unlike any other in the modern game,” according to ‘Cricket 2.0.’

Perhaps, by now Dhoni is among the top three captains of all time in terms of experience at the professional level. And this kind of experience can’t be bought in any auction by splurging millions of dollars.

Dhoni has always been a big believer in the process and doesn’t fret much on results. Although, he has never said it publicly but one can sense that he was influenced by former India coach Greg Chappell. This reflects in most of his cricketing decisions, especially those backed by his ‘gut feeling.’ Dhoni and CSK picked Faf du Plessis when he was yet to play for South Africa and they continue to back him decades later. Especially when his country has overlooked him for the upcoming T20 world cup.

“Captaincy is arguably more important in cricket than any other major team sport. The importance of the strategic side of the game may be even greater in T20. In a format with such tiny margins between victory and defeat, the significance of every captaincy decision is amplified. This applies not only to macro-strategies- such as bowling changes and batting orders-but to micro-strategies such as field placements and ball-by-ball tactics,” the book said further, summing up Dhoni’s contribution as captain of CSK so far. Maybe that is the reason Harsha Bhogle reminded him about the proud legacy he is leaving behind. Meanwhile, Dhoni being Dhoni, denied it quickly.

Not to highlight, but CSK knows without the modern-day genius of Dhoni, such sustained excellence for a franchise is perhaps impossible to accomplish.

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