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Thursday, June 09, 2016

At 34, Why Cricketer Dhoni Bothering To Lead Youngsters To Zimbabwe Instead Of Getting Some Rest?

By RAMAN KAPOOR | INNLIVE

In a relatively low-profile tour, perhaps India's limited overs captain has taken it upon himself to mentor a young, inexperienced team.

As the Indian cricket team lands in Zimbabwe to take part in a relatively low-profile One-Day International and Twenty20 series, looking to win goodwill and not just the games, its members are not your usual suspects.

For one thing, as has already been pointed out, the 16-member squad is hugely inexperienced – five of them are uncapped at the international level, while the combined experience of 15 members of the team (83 ODIs and 28 T20Is) is just a third of the entire match experience of the person who will be leading them, Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Curiously, though, when it comes to playing in Zimbabwe, Dhoni isn't the most experienced player in the bunch. In a career stretching more than a decade, Dhoni has only played a couple of ODIs against Zimbabwe in Zimbabwe, both of them in 2005. He did not travel to the country during India's tours in 2010, 2013 and 2015. So, Ambati Rayudu has played in six ODIs in Zimbabwe in his fledgling playing life, while Kedar Jadhav played three ODIs and two T20Is on the tour last year.

Of course, the lack of playing time in Zimbabwe is hardly going to be a problem for Dhoni, considering the overall time he has put in on the pitch. But the very fact that he decided to lead such a young Indian team to this tour is quite significant – it is a pointer to the fact that skipper Dhoni is starting the transition to mentor Dhoni.

A mentor like no other:
It is difficult to remember the last occasion when the Indian captain, now 34, led such a young team on a tour abroad. There was, of course, the 2007 World Twenty20, where Dhoni led an unfancied Indian team to the summit and, in many ways, spearheaded the T20 revolution that was to follow. But even Dhoni was young then – the 2007 World Twenty20 was his first international assignment as captain, at just 25. The tour of Zimbabwe will be very different.
For starters, the captain has to be aware that he is leading a raw bunch of players, many of whom may well be overawed by the sheer stature of their skipper. It is important that Dhoni's leadership of his men be more circumspect on this trip – for he does has a history of publicly berating players who he thinks haven’t done well. That might not be the best course of action on this trip as it, could severely dent the confidence of a young player.

Learning experience:
In the same vein, the 15 other players should also use the Zimbabwe tour as a learning experience from Dhoni. To be brutally honest, performances on this tour have never counted for much – both Ambati Rayudu and Kedar Jadhav topped the run-charts in the ODI series against Zimbabwe last year, but barely got any more chances. This is more of an opportunity for the selectors to test India’s bench strength, and if the team could pick up some pointers from one of the country’s greatest ever captains, it would be much more useful than any 5-0 hammering of Zimbabwe.

Who are some of these players to look out for? Well, possibly the entire team, but a few do stand out: Faiz Fazal at 30 is no youngster and does not even regularly play in the Indian Premier League, but his performances in domestic cricket won him the nod, which is a heartening sign. At the opposite end, Yuzvendra Chahal, whose domestic form was average but who has been exemplary for the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the last two IPL seasons, will finally get to show his wares on the international stage. At 25, he is an exciting leg-spinning prospect to watch out for. Both will benefit from Dhoni's guidance on the field.

More than anything else, Dhoni must be applauded. He has won almost everything there is to be won in cricket. With a career slowly winding down, no one would have really questioned him if he had chosen to take a break after a gruelling season which included the World Twenty20 and the IPL. But the captain thought differently and, as usual, confounded his critics – he chose to take a very inexperienced team on a tour that no one really cares much about.
Dhoni has often talked about “processes over results”, and this time he has walked the talk. By choosing to mentor these potential youngsters, he is ensuring that many of these talents get a quality education on their first trip in Indian colours.
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