Melbourne: He does not have the "grace" of a Sachin Tendulkar nor the "silky soft hands" behind stumps like Syed Kirmani but Mahendra Singh Dhoni will retire as one of India's top three players of all time, feels former Australian cricketer Dean Jones. "If I asked you who were the top three Indian cricketers of all time, would you have M.S. Dhoni among them? Well, if you don't, you will by the time he retires," Jones wrote in The Sydney Morning Herald.
"The recent retirements of Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and V.V.S. Laxman have allowed Dhoni the opportunity to bat higher and show us all that his batting alone can match some of the greats. Sure he hasn't made the runs yet, but after his epic 224 in Chennai, he has gained even more respect from the hardcore Indian fans," he explained. "Dhoni is an enigmatic figure in Indian cricket. He doesn't have the technique or grace of Sachin Tendulkar, Dravid, Sunil Gavaskar or Gundappa Viswanath. Nor does he possess the silky soft hands of Syed Kirmani behind the stumps," he opined.
Jones said despite his unorthodox style of batting and instinctive captaincy, Dhoni always seems to have a plan up his sleeves. "Dhoni is one hell of a cricketer. He has smashed all of the leading bowlers in one game or another. His fitness levels are amazing and running between the wickets is exhilarating. He is a rare breed of cricketer, a momentum-changer," Dhoni said. "When he starts swinging, he can change the course of the match. Then, in the blink of an eye, when all things are going his way, he backs off and plays the percentages again and shuts opposition teams out.
"Most batsmen can't control themselves when the 'beans are going' and get out soon afterwards. Not Dhoni. He is a cool and unflappable cricketer," he added. Jones said Dhoni more than makes up for his lack of technique, with his lion-hearted approach to the game. "You see, it's not whether you have all the shots, it's knowing when to use them. It's about having the courage to use the big shots when you're under the pump," he said. "Dhoni's leadership doesn't get the respect it should.
Many Indian fans just look at runs scored and wickets taken. 'Mahi', as he is affectionately called by teammates, has to deal with the expectations of more than a billion people and handles superstars, such as Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag," he pointed out. "I get the sense that his teammates would die for him. He is no different to the man I first met in 1999. Very humble, very cool and very honest.
Dhoni's captaincy style is not rocket science. It's basically based on how a python kills its prey. He waits for the opposition to make a mistake and then squeezes the living breath out of them." Jones said Dhoni has all that it takes to go down as one of the most successful players in the history of Indian cricket.
"If Dhoni keeps winning and playing as positively as he has done, don't be surprised if he beats Sachin to the post. I firmly believe Dhoni will end up as one of the top three Indian players of all time when he retires. As for the other two, that's a discussion for another day," he said.
Do you agree with Dean Jones?