Tuesday, July 16, 2013

3 Lessons for India from Dhoni

By Carl Jaison:

India is no newbie to crisis. It either prefers to succumb to the unfolding crisis or take it for granted invoking excuses of fate and destiny. This may be the case in the political episodes of the nation. India, however, did show to the world that its disaster management efforts in Uttarakhand were a testimony of its fire-fighting skills, even if it was marred by unwanted controversies.

As the nation suffers innumerable economic problems, one man hasn’t let that deter the sentiments of the cricket-frenzy public, who look upon their sporting idols at least for some temporary solace and relief from day-to-day pressures. In a country that curses but doesn’t rectify its follies, Indian Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s composure teaches us a lesson or two.

Dhoni’s ability to deliver under unimaginable amount of pressure makes him a man to look forward to. He has done this on multiple occasions but due recognition of such feats have mattered even more now owing to the persisting crisis faced by his country.

What has been Dhoni’s winning formulae? What makes the most talked about sportsperson a sharp contrast with the inherently laid back nation of his? Dhoni is being admired like never before. After leading India to a nail-biting last over victory in the tri-series final against Sri Lanka, the entire country is for the first time focussing not on the result but on the uniqueness of their skipper.

People began to wonder how Dhoni manages to remain calm and collected in situations where even the greats of the game may falter. Thus began a series of panel discussions on what really is Dhoni made up of. His past achievements were compared with his most recent outing, experts gave their opinion on his success mantras, news channels heaped praise on his stature, cricket coaches now increasingly recommend his famed ‘helicopter shot’, which was once disregarded like many of his brutal whacks.

When he made his first appearance for India, being dismissed without scoring, many would have almost immediately written-off this unsophisticated talent, like the many other promising prospects who flattered to deceive.

Dhoni knew he wasn’t the perfect cut for a technically sound player India so badly needed. Rather he moulded himself into an altogether different kind of player. A complete package who could not only merely lead, but also read the ground situation well. Someone who possessed the calibre of  Gavaskar, the ability of  Kapil Dev, the sensibility of  Dravid and the professionalism of Ganguly. Though he doesn’t exhibit the unpretentiousness of Tendulkar and the gracefulness of Laxman, he flaunts such values in his own natural way.

Maybe that has made Dhoni stand out from the crowd. No one would have imagined that this Jharkhand lad will one day conquer the cricketing scene, agonisingly watched by the purists who have often wrongly anticipated his premature downfall. He has transcended all cricketing theories and logic through his uncanny knack of delivering when it matters by doing his own bit and leaving the rest to the One above.

This seems to suggest that there is indeed something special and super-human about him. But is there really something extraordinary about Dhoni that we Indians fail to replicate in our own lives?

We also fail to predict the imminent collapse that Dhoni will have to encounter one day or the other in his career like many of us will. He has already gone through testing times like many of us have. Dhoni is still in the learning and evolving stage of his career. However unlike many of us, Dhoni is making his opportunities count and presence felt in times of extreme adversities in addition to the calmness with which he executes his job. Dhoni is trying to teach us a very important lesson yet we are always blinded by his success.

Dhoni is not God rather he does what an ordinary human ought to do - staying calm under pressure and learning from failed experiences.  Here are 3 Dhoni strategies that might well turn out to be our very own success mantras:

Work on Your Weaknesses,  as Strengths are Inherent:

His escalating success graph naturally diverts us from his weak points. When you no longer notice blemishes in him, you can be sure that he has worked on it to ensure it is out of his system. One such shortcoming was his rudimentary wicket-keeping ability. He isn’t as acrobatic as Brendan McCullum or quick-footed like De Villiers. It has been made clear from past instances that Dhoni has now developed a new style of glove-work that relies more on adaptability than technique. Similarly, watching his original batting would have made the pioneers of the game a shattered lot, but Dhoni has redefined how cricket needs to be played. He has unconsciously, though significantly transformed the dynamics of the game by playing to his strengths. Thus, Dhoni has successfully converted his weaknesses into opportunities.

Mental Preparedness Should be Made a Habit:

His batting average while chasing targets is incredibly close to cent percent. His captaincy record while defending low scores is also commendable. However, it is his frame of mind that has made all the difference. Dhoni doesn’t walk out to bat without a plan nor effect field placements with a blank mind. His innings begin in the dressing room even before the dismissal of the batsman preceding him. Dhoni prepares himself for different situations and possibilities. We rarely find him sporting a smile inside the dressing room which is only because Dhoni knows that every player should gear up to the mental strengthening of his game, hours before sweating it out in the middle. On the exterior, Dhoni appears like any other batsmen facing his first delivery. However, he is different because he has built up a fearless and enduring mentality.

Doing the Right Thing at the Right Time:

Strike the iron when it is hot. Analysis will tell you that Dhoni selectively chooses his kill.  By targeting Eranga, the most inexperienced bowler in the Sri-Lankan team in the final over, Dhoni showed why calculated risks does work in ones favour if much thinking has gone into executing it. Dhoni’s self-belief is worth emulating. Dhoni loves to leave things to the last moments and minutes which may seem unsystematic and perilous. The reality is that he knows exactly what he is doing. Such an approach has paid him rich dividends more often than not. Dhoni is known to back his instincts and lets his intuition decide on the outcome. A perfect example of that was when he brought Zaheer Khan back into the attack during the final stages of England’s run-chase in a group-stage encounter of the 2011 World Cup. The pacer backed his skipper’s trust in him by snaring crucial wickets which eventually proved to be the turning point in that particular game. Even Dhoni stated, although haughtily, that he has a good game sense. Scoring 15 runs off the last 3 balls is just a small part of that large mystery-ridden answer about who really is MSD.

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