Recently, Wisden, The Book of Cricket, introduced its Inaugural Wisden XI, their Cricket Team of the world’s best 11 players. Their aim is to “recognise the best Test cricketers of the calendar year, and to endorse Test cricket as the highest, most skilled, form of the game, the least subject to the intrusion of time.“
According to Wisden, the criteria for selection are simple: the best eleven to play a Test match, no matter the opposition, guided by performances in 2008, and taking into consideration the amount of Test cricket they played in the year, the quality of their opponents, and that indefinable blend of class and form.
We were delighted to see that the Indian Captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni was chosen by Wisden to be the Captain of Wisden XI. Besides Dhoni, four other Indian Cricketers were selected, including the great Sachin Tendulkar, recognized by many to be the Greatest Cricketer ever, even eclipsing the legendary Don Bradman of Australia.
Behind India’s five, the team included two players each from Australia & South Africa and one player each from England & West Indies. (see content.cricinfo.com/wisdenalmanack/content/story/398701.html)
Ian Bishop, the former West Indies great bowler, chose Dhoni as Captain because “his charisma, which seems to permeate the Indian dressing-room and bring the best out of his team”. We could not agree more.
The Indian Cricket Team was a superb collection of players well before Dhoni became its Captain. But, the Indian Team was regarded as a soft and brittle team which succumbed when challenged by the aggressive, sometimes bullying Australian Team. We recall an Australian writer telling an Indian commentator (in www.bbc.com) that the“Indian players were good, middle class boys whereas the Australians were a team of “goondas” or a thuggish group of nasties”.
Dhoni changed the character of the Indian team. Under his leadership, the Indian Team became the aggressor with players like Harbhajan Singh (another selection in the Wisden XI) getting penalized for being too aggressive and trash talking. The “new” Indian team defeated Australia in their first series under Dhoni’s leadership. We recall an article about this series in bbc.com that remarked that “the Indian Team played like Australia and the Australian Team played like India”.
This was due to Dhoni. Under his leadership, the Indian Team changed from being a brilliant but brittle team to a mentally tough, indomitable team which found ways to convert potential defeats into victories. It is because of these mental qualities that the Indian Team, captained by Dhoni, recently won its first ever series against New Zealand in New Zealand.
MS Dhoni – Captain of Wisden XI Virender Sehwag – “A marvel of modern times, a genius..”
Wisden chose India’s opening batsman, Virender Sehwag as Wisden’s Leading Cricketer in the World, 2008, a singular honor. We love Sehwag’s selection but what matters more to us is the main reason for his selection. What was this reason?
Wisden said “Sehwag did so by taking the task of opening Test innings to a new level. He sought, and often achieved, mental domination (emphasis ours) from the first ball by scoring faster than any other opening batsman has ever done on a regular basis in Test cricket: 85 runs per 100 balls in the calendar year, without any soft opponents; Sehwag also scored at 120 per 100 balls in one-day internationals.” (see content.cricinfo.com/wisdenalmanack/content/story/398689.html ).
Wow! An Indian Batsman described as having “sought and often achieved mental domination“. This is a dream come true for life long fans like us.
In this blog, we have bemoaned the fact that India’s leaders have made India a soft country, a country that is forever praised (in a left handed way) for its “tolerance” and is feared by no one. This is why, we believe, India is always attacked and bullied by terrorist groups in India’s neighborhood and India is always taken for granted on the world stage.
When will a leader emerge in India like Mahendra Singh Dhoni who can change India’s attitude, its spirit and add mental toughness to the other great qualities & successes of India? We await that day. Until then, we are willing to support a “Dhoni For Prime Minister” campaign.
Editor’s Note: The batting order for the Wisden XI is Virender Sehwag (India), Graeme Smith (South Africa), Ricky Ponting (Australia), Sachin Tendulkar (India), Kevin Pietersen (England), Shivnarine Chanderpaul (West Indies), Mahendra Singh Dhoni (India), Harbhajan Singh (India), Mitchell Johnson (Australia), Dale Steyn (South Africa) and Zaheer Khan (India).