The uncertainties leading up to the retirement of Mahendra Singh Dhoni will be forgotten soon enough, and what will remain are the certainties and the pride of performance over the years.
Should he have retired earlier? Or at least should he have cleared the air earlier?
It does not matter. Dhoni was under no compulsion to make it easier for everybody else, especially those whose job it is to tie up careers neatly and move on to the next big thing.
It is likely that Dhoni might continue to play in the IPL. It is a tournament he enjoys, playing for a team he loves whose fans return the love many times over.
A man who has played 90 Tests, 350 one-dayers and 98 T20s will, naturally, be missed.
This in addition to being the country’s most successful captain, taking India to the No 1 ranking and leading them to a World Cup win after 28 years (2011), the World T20 (2007) which set up the IPL revolution and the Champions Trophy (2013).
In white ball cricket he is one of the all-time greats, his 84 undefeated innings pushing his average above 50 in one-day internationals. Only Ricky Ponting has led his team, Australia, to more wins. Dhoni has led in and won more matches than any other captain in T20 internationals.
He led India in the most number of Tests, 60, and was only recently overtaken by Virat Kohli as the most successful.
Dhoni’s reign had a profound impact on Indian cricket, and not just in terms of statistics.
He rose from what was then a backwater of Indian cricket – the eastern city of Ranchi – and continued the work begun by a predecessor, Sourav Ganguly, who turned to the non-traditional cricketing centres and discovered players of international standard.
Dhoni’s elevation as captain continued a process begun with the aristocrats – the maharajahs and nawabs – who led in the early years, the middle-class players (often bankers) who followed and then the small-town talent who spread the game; this in some ways reflecting the evolution of Indian society itself.
He was eight years old when Sachin Tendulkar made his Test debut, and within months of his taking over Tendulkar was saying, “I am delighted with the way Dhoni has conducted himself. He is a balanced guy with a sharp brain.”
Dhoni was easily accepted by the seniors in the side, a tribute both to his potential and fairness.
He learnt from his predecessors. From Rahul Dravid under whom he played 19 Tests and Anil Kumble under whom he played 10. These two men from the southern state of Karnataka brought to the job a rare intelligence, tactical nous and man management skills. “I want a team,” Dhoni once said, “that can stand before an advancing truck.” And he worked at building just such a team.
As a player, the amazing thing about Dhoni was what might look inadequate in another player, a gimmick even, worked well for him.
Ex-India keeper Syed Kirmani said initially he lacked “copybook basics” as a wicketkeeper and criticised his habit of standing on his heels to receive the ball rather than on his toes. The corkscrew on-drive or “helicopter” shot was uniquely Dhoni’s. It was seldom imitated because it was inimitable.
Retirement is a difficult thing, both for the player and his team.
In the first Test following Sunil Gavaskar’s retirement, India were bowled out for 75 by the West Indies and went on to lose by five wickets. It was another 19 Tests before India had a century opening partnership. That’s one side of the coin.
Here’s the other: after Tendulkar was caught at slip in his final Test innings, the new batsman Virat Kohli struck the next ball for four.
The symbolism was inescapable. The king is dead, long live the king.
Dhoni, as he prepares to leave the international scene, can take comfort in the fact that his successors are already in place.
He leaves Indian cricket in a good place – back as the best team in the world with a captain who is as hot (if one might be pardoned that expression) as he himself was cool, but just as successful; and new wicketkeepers ready to take over.
He will be missed for his remarkable self-control, his ability to change the tempo of a match either through sustained hitting or dour defence, and his manner of encouraging the bowlers, especially the spinners, from behind the wicket.
In the latter half of his career, he appeared at times to have eyes in the back of his head with his ability to run out batsman behind him without looking at the stumps.
He also patented a way of avoiding the recoil with his practised manner of either taking the edge from the bat or the throw from the field without wasting time having to take his hands back with the ball. It is a significant contribution to the art of wicketkeeping. Anything that saves time.
In 15 years, Dhoni played 538 internationals, scored over 17,000 runs, averaged 45 with a strike rate of nearly 80, held 634 catches and effected 195 stumpings.
Only five players in the history of the game have played more internationals; only one of them was a wicketkeeper, and none of them led in as many matches as Dhoni did.
His will be tough boots to fill. But Dhoni’s legacy goes beyond figures and reflects the arc of India’s societal transformation.
It will include the self-confidence he brought to large hitherto ignored sections of the population, and emphasise the old-fashioned dignity and respect he brought to the game and its players.
Department of Sports Development conducts workshop for netball coaches
The Department of Sports Development commenced a workshop to upgrade the knowledge of netball coaches at the Torrington Sports facility on Wednesday. The second in a series of such workshops the three-day programme attracted some 40 coaches from various parts of the country.
The coaches attached to the Department of Sports Development, Provincial Councils and the Netball Federation of Sri Lanka were participating in the workshop which was inclusive of both theory and practical sessions.
“For several years there had been no workshops like this to upgrade and share knowledge. We found this an ideal time to conduct such a workshop as the Covid 19 pandemic has halted most of the training programmes around the country,” said Department of Sports Development official .Jayantha Siyamudali who conducted a session on modern warming up methods in the morning yesterday.
National Track and Field coach Y.K. Kularatne conducted a lecture on training principles which was followed by a session on netball techniques and skills development conducted by Chandrani Pathiraja.
Director of Sports of the Moratuwa University, C. Rathnamudali was scheduled to speak on training planning today.
The Department of Sports Development conducted a similar workshop on conditioning for coaches of all sports recently.
The workshop which concludes today was coordinated by project officer Thamara Liyanage.
The attendees included prominent coaches who are working with the junior national teams and former national coaches. Asian Junior Cup team coach Kumari Gamage, coaches in the current development pool namely Prasadi Nalika and Lakmini Samarasingheand former national coach Deepthi Alwis took part in the programme with fellow coaches from elsewhere. (RF)
Rohit set to open with de Kock in IPL 2020
Rohit Sharma, the Mumbai Indians skipper, confirmed that he’ll open the batting during IPL 2020. In an online press conference, which both the captain and coach Mahela Jayawardene attended, Rohit said although the team is keeping “all options open” when it comes to their batting, he will start the 13th edition of the tournament as an opener.
“I opened for the entire tournament last year and will continue to do that. As a team, we keep all options open. I’m happy to do what the team wants. I enjoy batting at the top of the order and I’ve been doing it for a while. But even when I play for India, the message to the management is to not close any door and keep all the options open, so I’ll do the same here,” Rohit said on Thursday (September 17), two days before the IPL opening game against Chennai Super Kings.
With Quinton de Kock set to partner Rohit at the top of the order, Chris Lynn will have to wait on the sidelines. Lynn, who was roped in for his base price of INR. two crore, didn’t really get going on the slow pitches during the recently concluded Caribbean Premier League. He aggregated 138 runs playing for St Kitts & Nevis Patriots, scoring his runs at an average of 17.25 with a highest of 34.
“Lynn is a great addition to the squad, but the combination of Rohit and Quinton did a phenomenal job for us last season. They complement each other well, they’re consistent and both of them are experienced. They’re good leaders as well, so why would you want to fix something that isn’t broken? We will continue to go with that,” said Jayawardene.
“Lynn as an option gives us flexibility in the squad and that’s what we’ve always done. We try and add more value to the team, give more options so that we can be unpredictable when it comes to tournaments and big matches. Quinton and Rohit as a combination have been brilliant.”
Mumbai Indians, meanwhile, will miss the services of Lasith Malinga who pulled out of the tournament due to personal reasons. While mentioning that Malinga’s shoes are big to fill, Rohit said MI will try to make up for his absence with the likes of Nathan Coulter-Nile and James Pattinson.
“For anyone, it’s hard to fill his boots. What he has done for MI and Sri Lanka is remarkable. He has been a match-winner for MI, whenever we were in trouble, Malinga bailed us out. His experience will be missed and what he did for MI is unbelievable. Nathan Coulter-Nile, James Pattinson and Dhawal Kulkarni are some of the names who can be his replacement. What he did for MI cannot be compared and he cannot be replaced,” Rohit said.
Rohit also spoke about the challenges of playing the tournament in a bio-bubble and praised the team management for keeping the team mentally fresh. “It’s going to be a different IPL. We were mentally prepared for it. Even before we came here, we discussed with boys about the bio-bubble guidelines. We are following all the protocols set by BCCI. Mentally it’s tough. Credit to Mumbai Indians management to have worked it well for us. Mentally we are fresh and not drained in our hotels with the facilities. Hats off to the team management for doing a fantastic job.”
About playing in the UAE, Rohit said: “The challenge for us would be to adapt to these conditions. Not a lot of cricketers from our group have played here. People who have been here need to share their experience with the players who have not played so far. Mentally, it’s about going there and understanding the pitch is doing. We have played some practice matches here and we know what to expect there. Reading the pitches will be very important.”
Dimuth on pains of not playing sport
by Rex Clementine
Sri Lanka skipper Dimuth Karunaratne has spoken of the mental struggles of not playing international sport for more than six months now. Dimuth was drawing up plans with Head Coach Mickey Arthur for the two match Test series against England when the tourists were forced to return home less than a week to go for the opening Test match with the pandemic creating havoc in the UK. Since then, five series have been postponed while Bangladesh’s visit to the island is one the fence and Sri Lanka might not tour South Africa later this year.
“These are tough times for all of us. We are from morning to night focused on the game all the time. You can stay away from cricket for a month or so but not more than that. This has been tough. I feel as if that I have lost a large portion of my career,” the 32-year-old told The Island.
“Fortunately we have started training and that’s some relief. We are still wondering when we will play a series. Mentally it’s been really tough. Most cricketers are professionals and you can imagine what happens when you do not engage in your profession. I am not talking about money. SLC has taken good care of us as we are contracted. But it’s stressful that you don’t compete at the highest level. Some players are wondering whether we will play any cricket at all this year and there are some of them who want to give up the game and focus on something else.”
“As a country, we have done really well to combat the pandemic. But some of the other cricket playing nations are not so fortunate and you never know when we will tour again.”
“These are best years of my career. I have matured and I feel I am reaching my peak. Then this happened. As a team, we were shaping up well after the World Cup. Personally, I was getting into a groove in ODIs and now I have to start all over again. We have not played for so long and I have forgotten some of the laws dealing with one-day cricket.”
“I am hopeful that whatever the series that has been postponed will be played. SLC is doing well to reschedule them. We have to be patient as we have to follow health guidelines in a bid to resume cricket. Hopefully, will play soon.”
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