How MS Dhoni remains unaffected by criticism
The year 2012 didn't bring a lot of cheer to Team India and to MS Dhoni in particular. A string of losses saw the India captain receive a lot of flak from the media for his poor tactics and failed batting. But Dhoni insists he has remained largely unaffected by the criticism.
Read on to find out how!
It's a known, even if not accepted, fact that Indians in general do not take criticism in their stride.
And considering that cricket is a religion in the country, the players are far more likely to being criticised, seldom without reason even though at times it can be taken to extreme levels.
It is said that criticism is part of any sport and needs to be made (and taken) constructively. It goes without saying that this is one aspect of the game the players detest the most.
Over a period of time Indian cricketers have developed various defence mechanisms to handle the criticism coming their way. Some refrain from giving interviews to the media while others interact with the fourth estate only when on reaching a milestone, well aware that there would be more appreciation coming their way in such a case.
Yet another strategy is to nominate a relatively new player, usually someone not very eloquent and therefore incapable of offering satisfactory explanations, as a guinea pig to handle the media briefing at the end of the day's play.
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Image: MS Dhoni: India's best captain ever?
'The best thing I've done so far is to not watch news or read newspapers'
Besides, defending every performance and every decision taken and giving endless (and mostly unconvincing) justifications have become the norm.
But the Indian captain has altogether perfected a new way of handling the criticism heaped on him when the team doesn't fire on all cylinders. He refrains from accessing any media that analyses/dissects cricket matches featuring Team India.
"The best thing I've done so far is to not watch news or read newspapers, so that has really helped, frankly," said MS Dhoni, on the sidelines of the Chennai Test against Australia which the team won handsomely, quite unabashed in his admission.
"It's not that I don't read newspapers, it's just that the back pages are always the sports page and I try to get rid of that," he added.
Besides, he doesn't speak to the media or appear in a presser unless it is mandatory (which is rarely the case).
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Image: MS Dhoni: Staying off the media helped
Dhoni generated criticism after a string of failures last year
It's a strategy that has helped the captain stand firm in the worst of times.
After leading Team India to its first World Cup title in 28 years, at home in 2011, Dhoni has had little to cheer.
Be it the back-to-back away drubbings in England and Australia, the first reverse leading to Team India losing its No.1 Test status, an early exit in the ICC World T20 in Sri Lanka, or the first home defeat in a Test series in eight years (to England), or for that matter, the reverse in the One-day series against Pakistan.
It's only to be expected that so many reverses, coming in quick succession, would set off criticism from various quarters. And naturally, as the captain, Dhoni was held accountable.
Besides, his batting too came under intense scrutiny, especially in the longer version of the game. For a considerable period of time there were suggestions that Dhoni merited a position in the Test team only because Team India was doing well under him; in other words, he owed his place in the team to his captaincy, as he regularly failed with the bat.
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Image: MS Dhoni: Is the worst over for him?
Dhoni ready to take pressure in his stride
So when Team India started losing more often, there were many who questioned even Dhoni's place in the team. While after the debacle in England Dhoni had categorically declared that he won't resign from captaincy when the chips were down, more recently he admitted that he doesn't think much about criticism.
"If you are leading a side for three-four years, then you will be in a situation where you will be under pressure more often. You have to take it in your stride," he was quoted as saying.
"I accept whatever comes to me. I feel good that I'm the punching bag because then there's less pressure on the team," he added.
While his 99 against England in the fourth and final Test at Nagpur -- followed by his hundred in the first one-dayer against Pakistan in Chennai -- did a bit to assuage worries about Dhoni's form with the bat, beating England in the ODIs series put the smile back on the faces of a billion-plus fans
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Image: MS Dhoni, the punching bag
While Aus struggle to adapt, Dhoni can keep critics at bay
Then came the opening Test against Australia in Chennai where Dhoni not only shone with the bat (224) but also led Team India to a comprehensive win against strong rivals. And the captain again had the opportunity to not only bask in the success but also justify himself yet again.
"What really matters is the job I'm trying to do," he explained.
Looking at the composition of this Australian squad, and the manner in which they are adapting to the Indian wickets, it seems Dhoni can keep critics at bay for some more time.
Till then the captain, and his team, can enjoy the praise coming their way from the public and the media.
Image: MS Dhoni with teammates