Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Celebrating Dhoniʼs birthday in Karachi

By Ehsan Qureshi
Indiaʼs skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni was not in the happiest of moods after his team had gone down in the final of the Asia Cup 2008 at the National Stadium, Karachi, but he still managed to sport a smile when I approached him to make a small presentation at the balcony of the main pavilion building.

The final of the Asia Cup between India and Sri Lanka, like all the preceding matches of the tournament, was a day-nighter. The game had started on the afternoon of July 6 but the date had changed by the time the players and the covering media packed their bags.

I can never dare to forget the date of July 7 because my beloved wife, Samrah, had arrived in this world on this particular day. I also knew that Dhoni was born on this day. So I availed the opportunity.

Soon after wishing Samrah over telephone as soon as the clock struck 12, I rushed towards Dhoni who had a session with the media in his usual flamboyant manner. He was as cool, calm and composed as ever while responding to some tricky questions in the media briefing.

Dhoni accepted my greetings on his birthday. May be he was touch surprised to be wished so early for the day had just begun. He was very happy to know that my wife was celebrating her birthday the same day. He extended greetings to her right away.

I presented a copy of my book on World Cup 2003 to the Indian captain who was quick to congratulate me on my effort. He glanced through the pages of the book and described it a worthy publication.

The World Cup 2003 was one tournament in which the Indians had performed exceptionally well, having reached the final where they were undone by Australia, the reigning champions.

Talking about Dhoni, he has really turned the face of Indian cricket. He leads a bunch of enterprising young cricketers who are right behind their captain. Even the senior players in the side are inspired by the proactive methods of Dhoni.

The Indians delighted the crowds in Pakistan with their dazzling batting performance in the Asia Cup. Dhoni led his team by example, changing gears as and when desired. The Indians, however, faltered at the last hurdle and failed to recapture the Asian crown despite looking the most formidable of all participating teams. They were overwhelmed by Sri Lanka in the final.

As Dhoni acknowledged in the post-match media briefing, the exploits of the veteran opener Sanath Jayasuriya and the mystery spinner Ajantha Mendis caught his team on the wrong foot.

Jayasuriya, as he had done often in the past, fought a lone battle against the charged up Indian bowlers and his breathtaking stroke-play kept Sri Lanka in the game despite the loss of wickets at regular intervals from the other end.

Virender Sehwag devastated the Sri Lankan medium-pacers but the complexion of the game changed with the introduction of Mendis who demolished the famed batting line-up with a magical spell of spin bowling.

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