One of India’s most charismatic player, a record-breaking captain and the best wicketkeeper-batsman India has produced, Mahendra Singh Dhoni has been the most sought-after subject for sports writers, and seasoned journalist Shantanu Guha Ray has produced a biography that invites readers fancy.
‘MAHI, The Story of India’s Most Successful Captain’, published by Roli Books, is the third biography on Dhoni, clearly indicating that his achievements and popularity make him an ideal sports personality to write on.
Ray’s in-depth work is a result of various interviews with people who have seen from close Dhoni growing into an icon and with the man himself, which turns the book into an interesting read. Here’s an excerpt:
Extract: Mahi, The Story of India’s Most Successful Captain
Written by Shantanu Guha Ray and published by Rohi Books, this is the third biography on Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
“It wasn’t until September 2004 that he was picked as the second wicketkeeper after Karthik, for the India ‘A’ team’s ODI tour of Zimbabwe and Kenya. Midway through the series, Karthik was called to join the national ODI team headed for the England series and Dhoni got his India colours against Zimbabwe.
He won the day for India by scalping 11 victims in the one-dayer (seven catches and four stumpings) and creating a record (though he shares it with two others). He also quick-fired 45 runs off 48 balls. Thereafter, came the one-day tri-nation tournament in Kenya involving India A, the hosts and Pakistan A, which was to become the stepping stone for Dhoni’s eventual national recognition.
Still, he wasn’t madly successful: in the opening match, India, under the captaincy of Sairaj Bhautule, lost the match by 20 runs. Dhoni, an opener, scored a paltry 8 runs. But Dhoni was in his elements as India walloped Pakistan in the next match and won by four wickets. His 70 runs helped him win his first Man-of-the-Match award. They notched another victory in the next match, this time by ten wickets against the hosts. Though Dhoni was not required to bat, he was content with four catches and a stumping.
He scored his first international century in the same series when, on 16 August 2004, he smashed 120 off 122 balls (ten boundaries and two sixes) along with opener Gautam Gambhir, who also scored a century. The two put on 208 runs for the second wicket – from just 192 balls – and helped India amass a winning total of 330 against Pakistan who collapsed for just 209.
In the last match before the final, India again beat Pakistan by eight wickets. Dhoni, who had scored 119 not out, with nine fours and five sixes, overshadowed Pakistan skipper Misbah-Ul-Haq’s 106. India won the final, again against Pakistan, by six wickets, though Dhoni could score just 15 runs. But he was on a high.
The boy from Ranchi now had the selectors’ attention. They took a good look at Dhoni and decided to include him in the Board President’s XI in Jaipur against the South Africans who came immediately after the departure of the Australian team. Dhoni did his bit to keep himself in the headlines. He kept well and scored 39 in the only innings in which he batted.
That Dhoni was on a roll became evident when he replaced Karthik when India went next door to Bangladesh for a Test and ODI series. Though he muffed his first show at the MA Aziz Stadium in Chittagong (run out for nought), India won the day by a bare margin of 11 runs.
The second ODI turned out to be a nightmarish experience for Dhoni as India – with Tendulkar, Dravid, Harbhajan Singh, and Irfan Pathan being rested – lost to the hosts who were otherwise known as cricket’s favourite whipping boys. India, however, won the third match and the series 2-1. Dhoni faced just two balls in India’s huge total of 348, one of which he sent out flying over the boundary for a glorious six.
Thereafter, two things happened almost simultaneously. Skipper Saurav Ganguly told the selectors that he would persist with Dhoni for the ODIs and Karthik for the Test series. ‘Having Dhoni for the ODI makes sense for the team because he has the pace. We need such firepower and Dhoni is matching our expectations as a middle-order batsman. He is equally brilliant behind the stumps,’ Ganguly told reporters in the presence of John Wright, the team coach.
A month later in Dhaka, Wright told journalists covering the Bangladesh seriesthat they were actually seeing a person who had all the capabilities to one day lead the Indian cricket team. ‘He will soon mature into one of India’s finest players. I would say he has all the potential to become a team leader. He understands his game well and understands his teammates,’ quipped Wright.
Many in India heard Wright loud and clear.”