For a young Mahendra Singh Dhoni, unorthodoxy was the sole obstacle in getting into the Indian team. He was scoring big in domestic competitions, but the manner in which he was making those runs was not ‘aesthetically pleasing’.
In spite of hitting back-to-back centuries on India-A tour, his selection was not a certainty.
A few zonal selectors were in favour of selecting the more graceful Dinesh Karthik for the 2004 tour of Bangladesh, but after they consulted with then skipper Sourav Ganguly, Dhoni was given a go-ahead.
It is been more than 12 years since that decision and both M S Dhoni and Dinesh Karthik are part of the Indian team now. Dhoni has not changed his inelegant way, he is the supreme example of artisanship over artistry and surprisingly for many connoisseurs, it has given him remarkable results. He was in the top 10 of the ICC ODI batsmen rankings for almost a decade and a very few can rival him in the 5o-over format.
Dhoni remains an enigma, he hardly plays a leg glance and almost never a cover drive- the two shots that have been romanticized the most by the cricket authors. The cliché :”He has every shot in the book” is not for him, apparently he does not care either. He has a whole different set of trademark shots which are his exclusive.
MS Dhoni defies almost everything that is in the coaching manual. He doesn’t defend, he stabs. He doesn’t lean forward, he lunges. He doesn’t drive fluently, he shoves. He doesn’t upper cut, he carves. He doesn’t sweep, he heaves. He doesn’t swing to the one side, he hammers.
His trademark helicopter shot in which he uses his bottom-hand brute force to dispatch outside the off deliveries over long on is as ‘unusual’ a shot as any batsman might play. But, it is fascinating in his own sense.
His unconventional style has made him mighty successful, on the contrary, Dinesh Karthik has never been able to cement his place in the Indian team. Karthik has continued to make graceful runs in domestic cricket but never amassed them with such consistency at the international level which would make him a regular fixture in the national side.
In the contest of M S Dhoni and Dinesh Karthik, both middle-order wicket keeper batsmen, unorthodox Dhoni has prevailed over the more pleasing to an eye batsman. The inelegance has won over the gracefulness. Though we romanticize elegance in sports, it is often the consistency that makes a cricketer great not the elegance. It’s the consistency that has made MS Dhoni the unorthodox legend of the game.