Here Cometh the Dhoni Era…

We can stand and we can march
We shall conquer one and all
Cometh is the time for glory
Young hearts shall put their mark.

( Time to take off )

Indian cricket now enters a new era, this Indian cricket team is well and truly poised to take off. The reins are in the hands of a bloke called Mahendra Singh Dhoni. I do believe in the old adage that a captain is as good as the team. That is where Dhoni is blessed. He has a fantastic blend of youthful players who are supreme in confidence and under his leadership they will take India to greater heights. See unchartered territory. The biggest test for Dhoni and his men is to prove that this team is different to the old Indian teams that rides high on talent and can pull of incredible wins once in a while but than invariably return to the same mediocre ways again.

What Gavaskar, Kapil, Azhar, Ganguly era’s showed was that Indian teams would pull of fantastic wins and beat the best on their day. But the consistent run of victories over the years has been eluding. Our best time probably came from 1983 to 1986 where in One day cricket we were quite consistent and good. But never have we been the best in the world in Test Matches and seldom have we had a team that can be considered the greatest ever. Test Cricket is still the best form of cricket and the true test of a teams character.

That is the biggest task at hand of Dhoni, India must shed the tag of wonderful talented players and wear the tag of the best team in world cricket. There is potential now to have a team that can be compared to the Invincibles of Australia or Clive Lloyd’s men or Steve Waugh’s men.

These three were special teams, they won too much over a long period of time. Steve Waugh can probably lay claim that they raised the bar, they made all other test playing teams look as if they were competing against themselves while Australia were playing at a different level. They decided to score over 300 runs a day, attack with fieldsmen, bowlers and batsmen, they never played negative cricket. They were blessed with two of the best bowlers of the century. They were ruthless, clinical, brave, gamblers and yes very very arrogant. Their gambling and their human instincts were proved in 2001 in India, the one blemish on the Steve Waugh team.

Lets now take a look at the arsenal at Dhoni’s disposal, starting at the top of the batting order Dhoni has Sehwag and Gambhir potentially a very destructive opening pair but the interesting fact is the replacements, Robin Uthappa, Shikhar Dhawan, Akash Chopra & M Vijay. These replacements ensure that the two in the XI will always be kept on their toes. Micheal Slater, Mathew Elliot, Greg Blewett etc kept Hayden and Langer at their toes and didn’t let them relax.

Looking at the middle order, this is where India might face some unsurity and difficulty once Sachin, Dravid and Laxman call it a day. These are champion players and them going out together will be a tough gap to fill. Having said that Sachin & Laxman look like they will continue for atleast another 12 to 24 months, giving enough time to groom the replacements. Ganguly’s spot will go to Yuvraj Singh in the most likely event. Hope the selectors give Yuvraj an extended run this time. Also hope Yuvraj can solve the spin puzzle this time. The next in line would have to be Rohit Sharma when Dravid decides to call it quits. Suresh Raina, Cheteshwar Pujara, Badrinath, Virat Kohli, Kaif, Yusuf Pathan etc will keep them on the toes. Also the openers mentioned earlier could take a spot in the middle order.

The fast bowling department is the one that gives me the greatest joy when I discuss Indian cricket’s future. The best teams in the world have to have really good fast bowlers to be good all over the world and this is one of the reasons why we were never world beaters over a consistent period of time. The leader of the pack is Zaheer Khan and he is a lion hearted performer, if he stays fit the next 3 years we shall see the best of Zaheer as he now has support from the other end in Ishant Sharma. India will do well to take care of Ishant Sharma as he has the potential to take India to the top of the world. The tall lanky bowler bowls and irritating length with awkward bounce and moves the ball enough to trouble the best. He is smart over his years at this age and can even bowl long spells. He will always be a menace for all batsmen if he stays fit. Next in line is Sree Santh, if this Keralite can get his brain fixed and only focus on cricket and his outswing he can be the ideal foil for Zaheer/Ishant duo when India go abroad. He is the one when India go abroad to take the new ball with Zaheer with Ishant as the first change giving no respite to the batsmen. India never had three fast bowlers playing in one team who could run through the opposition when they go abroad. Now is the time to return the favours. The competition for them will come from Munaf, R.P Singh, Irfan Pathan, Gony, Praveen kumar, Vrv Singh and lots of young guns who are coming through. For the first time India looks to have covered the fast bowling base.

The spinners will be led by the mercurial Harbhajan Singh, although he really needs to work on his bowling in Test Cricket as he is starting to become ineffective. He will be ably supported by Amit Mishra, Piyush Chawla, Pragyan Ojha and some distinctive Murali, did I say Murali no I meant Mohnish Parmar. This lad is special he has an action very similar to Murali and I am sure we will see him soon in Indian colours.

Now the only thing we didn’t discuss is the wicket keeper and the captain. No Dhoni is not Gilchrist. Dhoni is Dhoni himself, he is built like and ox runs like a raging bull between wickets and is a very safe wicket keeper. He can intimidate bowlers and tear them apart, but if the need be he can curb his natural instincts and be a finisher. He lends balance to the team. If Irfan Pathan can rediscover the potential he showed earlier with the ball than Dhoni and Irfan could be the no. 6 & 7 for India for a long time and enable India to play 5 bowlers. Dhoni can easily play at no. 6 as a batsman.

The captaincy sits well on Dhoni because he never was looking for it, he was never a captain at domestic or club or college level. Now that it has come he has taken to it like a fish to water. He is very cool and balanced and doesn’t get flustered easily. He doesn’t care if critics question the logic of 8 to 1 offside field. He simply re-iterates in Hindi, “Chal gaya to strategy, nahi chala to negative cricket.” (If it works its strategy if it doesn’t its negative cricket.”)

Champion cricket teams have always had wonderful openers, wonderful opening bowlers and that seems very well covered by this team. This is one thing we always lacked over the years and Dhoni is lucky to have them at his disposal. Some people want to call Dhoni the guy with a Midas Touch or plainly lucky. But the fact of the matter is the guy has been unflustered so far, he has had his tests against the Aussies down under and he won a series there. He has a t-20 world cup in his kitty, In SriLanka when all our champions couldnt score runs he went there played grafting cricket which was not stunning or most attractive but mighty effective. He beat the Sri Lankans there and brought the trophy home.

Dhoni will also be tested at some stage when his side will lose a few matches, that is when his character will be tested. But like I said if the team is good than the captain is good and if the team is good than they cannot lose consistently.

The appetite is whetted the lips are being licked, Let the Golden era, the Dhoni era commence…!!!!

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