The recent win in the T20I series against Australia was not only a boost for the Indian team going into the ICC World T20 on home turf - starting in March - but also showed a side of skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni's personality that isn't quite synonymous with the man from Ranchi. Not known to be someone who believes in picking individuals over the team, Dhoni made an exception this time and praised every individual who contributed in the series win.
From Virat Kohli to Jasprit Bumrah, Dhoni didn't miss out a single opportunity to praise the players who made the series win a possibility. In fact, he even went on to praise Ashish Nehra for doing a decent job with the new ball. Even though Nehra's figures weren't something to write home about, his presence surely gave confidence to the youngsters like Hardik Pandya and Bumrah.
Dhoni also joked about how a stand would soon be named after Kohli at the Adelaide Oval. He went on to say how almost every ground in the country could have a stand in Kohli's name, considering his consistent showing Down Under.
The Dhoni of the past was hardly seen recognising individual performances. In fact, every time the media asked about someone's performance, he would shift focus on the team's performance on the whole.
For him, cricket was a team game and individual glory meant little.
But walking into the home stretch of his career, it shows that gone are the days when Dhoni could rest on past laurels and even he needs to rub the egos of his star performers.
Ever since former BCCI chief N Srinivasan's exit from the hot seat, Dhoni has definitely lost his clout and the recent change in attitude clearly shows that he is taking a leaf out of Kohli's book. Kohli has time and again, in his short tenure as Test skipper, gone ahead and praised individuals every time the team has done well.
Dhoni's new style of functioning was even more evident after the loss in the five-match ODI series. And this wasn't restricted to just interactions with the media. Even on the field, Dhoni was seen more proactive and expressive every time a wicket fell. In the past, players would often speak about how Dhoni preferred to keep to himself and didn't believe in elaborate celebrations.
But in the T20I series, not only was he celebrating every wicket, but also looked really egged up as he kept talking to the players at the fall of every Australian wicket. It almost felt like Dhoni had realised that he needs to be more involved if he wants to be accepted by the new crop of players. He even looked more eager to set the ball rolling with his on-field decisions rather than let the game dictate terms to him - something that has been an area of concern as far as his captaincy is concerned, especially in recent times.
While Kohli seems to have understood the pulse early in his captaincy career that a word of encouragement from the skipper - especially in the media - can get a player to produce that extra bit of hard work on the field, Dhoni has learnt it the hard way. But as they say, better late than never.
(Courtesy of Mail Today.)