Former India fast bowler Ashish Nehra is remembered for his spirited bowling in the early 2000s including his amazing 6-wicket haul against England in the 2003 World Cup. Nehra’s career was full of injuries and missing games was a part and parcel of his life, but his career got a second wind under the leadership of MS Dhoni both for India and for Chennai Super Kings in the IPL.
Nehra writes on one of the greatest limited overs captains in the world MS Dhoni in his column for OutlookIndia.com and we have some excerpts from the column.
Nehra starts with an apt description of MS Dhoni saying "Anyone can do captaincy, but Dhoni is a true leader.”
He further writes about when he first met Dhoni, “We first met when we played for India in 2005, a one-day international against Pakistan in Kochi. Then, an injury ruled me out of professional cricket for more than three years. My friendship with him began only in 2009, on my return. Since then, we have played many games together, including a couple of seasons for the Chennai Super Kings, till my retirement this year.”
Ashish Nehra listed some reasons for calling MS Dhoni a game changer for the Indian cricket.
He writes, “His batting talent was quite obvious from the initial days. The time captain Sourav Ganguly promoted him to bat at number three against Pakistan in the Visakhapatnam ODI in 2005, he slammed a century. Then, he hammered 183 against Sri Lanka in Jaipur within the same year and had everyone convinced that there was something exceptional about him. He had that uncanny ability to hit the ball out of the park, clean.”
Nehra continues, “And when Dhoni took over as India’s Test captain, following Anil Kumble’s retirement in 2008, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, Virender Sehwag, Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh were still in the team. To lead a team of such stalwarts would surely not have been an easy task and that too at just 27. But Dhoni proved worthy of the responsibility given to him. He showed character while leading the team and showed that unwavering spirit, that unique characteristic that gave him his signature epithet—Captain Cool.”
Talking about India’s win in the World T20 2007, Nehra writes, “Remember, he was completely new to captaincy—he was handed the reins when he was nowhere in the picture. And there were big shoes to fill in: Rahul Dravid was captain on India’s previous tour to England. Dhoni as skipper was a huge turning point for Indian cricket as well. He knew how to handle pressure, in his own way. When India lost a back-to-back Test series to England, 0-4, and to Australia by the same margin in 2011, after winning the World Cup at home, he didn’t buckle or change as a person.”
Nehra says, “The way Dhoni is playing currently, he will surely go on to play the 50-over World Cup next year. And if he wishes so, he can play the 2020 T20 World Cup too.”
“When players face pressure on the ground, each one reacts differently to it. Dhoni remains calm. And whether batting at No 6 or No 7, he has so often finished matches in India’s favor. He had initially forged a successful partnership with Yuvraj Singh down the order. The only other pair that I can recall that chased ODI totals with some success were the Ajay Jadeja-Robin Singh combine. Dhoni has been a finisher for 10 years,” Nehra said about Dhoni, the finisher.
Nehra also spoke of him as a captain, “His other quality is to get the best out of a player. He uses his mind, as I witnessed while playing under him for CSK. He is a very realistic person; he doesn’t always think out of the box. He plays percentage cricket, something he demonstrated while captaining CSK.”
Nehra says that Dhoni quit captaincy at the right time. He writes, “The call to quit captaincy was also taken at the right time. That gave a couple of years or so to Virat Kohli to settle down as his successor. Overall, if you were to measure Dhoni’s status, it would be the same as Tendulkar’s. Whenever a list of Indian legends will be drawn, Dhoni will figure along with Sunil Gavaskar, Tendulkar, Dravid, and Kohli.”
Nehra further predicts the future for the former captain Dhoni and writes, “The way Dhoni is playing currently, he will surely go on to play the 50-over World Cup next year. And if he wishes so, he can play the 2020 T20 World Cup too because he is so fit still, and age has nothing to do with it. Dhoni is capable of playing the shorter formats for two-three years. When I could bowl fast at 38-years-old, why can’t a batsman, a spinner, or a wicket-keeper play in the shorter formats? Dhoni’s job is tough though, as he has to keep wickets besides batting. But if you play him as a pure batsman, he could play for India for five more years!”