May 26, 2006

That's the way, Mahi way!

By H Natarajan

Not since Sachin Tendulkar’s arrival as a precocious teenager has India gone so ga-ga over a new cricketer. Mahendra Singh Dhoni is the choice of Generation Next, a man who has breezed past several established sports icons to become a superstar.

Zip, zap, it with the bat or on his mobike, Dhoni revels life in the fast lane. In fact, with his chiseled looks, attractive height and build, flowing mane and passion for mobikes, he poses serious competition for poster boy John Abraham!

Dhoni’s exciting brand value powers a slew of companies that he endorses. In fact, companies like Bharat Petroleum, Reebok, Pepsi, Exide and Videocon that have signed up an emerging blue-chip like Dhoni are like market-savvy investors who had the vision to pick up Infosys share at Rs 150.

His electrifying USP is great to watch but loaded with risks if attempted by lesser mortals not blessed with his gumption and self-confidence. Millions know driving, but how many can handle an F-1? Many of his strokes defy description. His game reminds what Ilie Nastase once said of Bjorn Borg: “They should send Borg away to another planet. We play tennis, he plays something else!”

The Samson from Jharkhand is a maverick. While most batsmen will avoid antagonising fast bowlers, he openly challenged Shoaib Akhtar & Co. prior to the tour of Pakistan, unmindful of the repercussions. He translated his words into exciting action by topping the five-match ODI series with an average of 219 and a strike rate of 137.

His approach is the same in Test matches too where over 50% of his runs have come in fours and sixes. But he is not all bravado and no brains. He has proved that he can curb his basic instincts to attack and play the waiting game that has seen him as a marvelous finisher in ODIs. His cricketing acumen has won the respect of Greg Chappell, who publicly proclaimed that Dhoni has leadership qualities in him.

The magnetic appeal of Dhoni has made corporates queue up with cheque books. Cashing in on Dhoni’s pizzaz as a youth icon, a mobile game developer company is designing a wide range of mobile phone content on him, including games, wallpapers, screensavers, themes, SMS trivia, latest news on Dhoni and mobile communities based on him.

“Mahi” has converted a generation of kids to hardcore milk drinkers. At a time when cricketers appear in surrogate ads for liquor, Dhoni’s milk-guzzling ways is akin to Lee Falk-hero Phantom going to a bar and asking for milk! In fact, the only comparison of this mania for milk was the time Lord Ganesha converted thousands of atheists into believers by drinking milk with great fervour!

So what can we expect of Dhoni in next year’s World Cup in the Caribbean? Who knows, he may convert the rum-drinkers into milk drinker! Jokes apart, Dhoni may well be one of the real big stars of cricket’s quadrennial showpiece.


“Boom Boom” Dhoni

• In his fifth ODI, he hit 148 against Pakistan.

• In his 22nd ODI, he scored 183* against Sri Lanka - the highest by a ’keeper in ODIs.

• The unbeaten 183 is the highest ODI score by a batsman in the second innings.

• The winning six at Jaipur aggregated his match tally of fours and sixes to 120 runs (10 sixes and 15 fours) - a new ODI record.

• Dhoni’s average of 52.76 puts him in second place behind Michael Bevan (53.58) while his career strike-rate of 103.00 finds him in fourth place of the ODI charts – both stats with a minimum qualification of 40 innings.

• He has hit a staggering 120 boundaries and 44 sixes so far in 42 ODIs.

• In just 17 months since his debut, he has emerged as the No 1 batsman in the ICC ODI rankings.

• In only his fifth Test, he scored 148 at Faisalabad when India were struggling to avoid the follow on.


This is Dhoni

• “The first thing I did (upon returning from Pakistan) was to change the batteries of my Yamaha RD 350cc and Yamaha R-6 600cc bikes. And then I went for a drive at 6.00 the next morning. I have also bought a Pajero...and a black labrador named Zara.”

• “It’s a 1300cc bike called Suzuki Hayabusa and there’s nothing like it. Of course, the others who have this bike are John Abraham and Shoaib Akhtari. I can make it to Ranchi from Jamshedpur on this bike in about 70 minutes” – Dhoni on his plans to buy the world’s fastest bike.

• “The four litres a day consumption is a bit exaggerated. I love milk and I have one litre of it every day. Earlier it used to be just plain milk, but now its Shakes or Hot Chocolates in any form.”

• “I am not really a fitness freak. I think it’s quite natural for me. I am from a place where the genes do matter, I am from the mountains. I am from Almora, Uttaranchal. Basically the genes are helping me but I am also working hard on my fitness with the training schedule of our trainer Gregory King.”

• “I love music, I love driving and I just love my bikes. I also love playing computer games and play quite a bit of badminton when I get the time. But bikes are what I love more than anything else.”

• “I’m a very cool person and I don’t lose my temper easily. But the problem is I never say ‘no’…I don’t like people holding a mobile camera to my face or, for that matter, I don’t like scribes dashing off to my house to speak to my parents even if I sc ore 40 or 50.”

• “I can never be arrogant. It is not my nature. My problem is that I am a shy person. I know it is a problem. I can't say why. It is very hard but that is how I am. People sometimes think that I have become arrogant because of fame. But that’s not true. I am shy of meeting new people. Once I know you then it’s different. I understand I need to interact and share my views with seniors, but it will take some time before I can change myself.”


What they said

“I can easily pick him as one of the players to be watched in the 2007 World Cup. He is unorthodox but very effective and at times murderous. He is difficult to bowl to because he has this ability to even hit the good balls with a jab shot. He is equally good with horizontal and vertical bat shots. He is safe behind the wickets and can be compared to Adam Gilchrist though the Australian has proved himself as the best after years in commission.” – Inzamam-ul-Haq after India’s tour of Pakistan earlier this year.

“In all my years of watching cricket the only other player who strode to the crease with greater swagger is the incomparable Viv Richards. Like the West Indian great, Dhoni has nothing but contempt for the bowlers and that shows in the way he wants to dominate and show who is the boss at the outset.” – Sunil Gavaskar.

“It's one of the best innings I have seen played under pressure. He was facing the new ball. He attacked the bowling, played very intelligently and controlled the game…He attacked brilliantly. It was one of the best counter-attacking innings I have seen in a long, long time. The situation of the game when he came in and the way he batted showed a lot of character, courage and ability.” – Captain Rahul Dravid on Dhoni’s hundred in the Faisalabad Test.


Mane Attraction of the Box Office

Not since APJ Abdul Kalam took over as President of India, has any Indian’s hairstyle been the topic of national discussion.

But unlike President Kalam’s hairstyle, a generation of Indian youth is now flaunting the Dhoni-cut – a phenomenon that can be seen at any international cricket match in India.

Among those who are bowled by his hairstyle is President Pervez Musharraf. After Dhoni scored an explosive 72 off 46 balls in the Lahore ODI, Musharraf advised the Samson from Jharkhand: “I saw a placard which said ‘Dhoni get a haircut’…Take my opinion, you look good... Don’t get a hair cut.”

(The above article appeared in DNA at the conclusion of the DLF Cup in Abu Dhabi against Pakistan)


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