Known for his leadership and demeanor, an aspect that often does not get enough praise while discussing MS Dhoni is his exquisite wicket-keeping skills. India’s premier gloveman this century, Dhoni was not just solid behind the wickets but an intimidating presence.
Apart from marshalling the troops from behind the wickets during his time as skipper, Dhoni almost made every record his own: he completed more stumpings than anyone in the history of the game, and ended his career as only one of three wicket-keepers to complete over 600 catches in international cricket.
In his latest book "Stargazing: The players in my life", team India head coach Ravi Shastri expressed his admiration for the Jharkhand man’s flawless glovework.
The success of Dhoni has also forced several up-and-coming wicket-keepers to copy the veteran, but Shastri, someone who has seen Dhoni close since his embryonic days, advised youngsters to not copy the 40-year-old’s style ‘unless it comes naturally’.
"MS is an unorthodox cricketer. His technique, in front of and behind the stumps, is not easily replicable. My suggestion to youngsters is don't try imitating him unless it comes naturally. What made him so successful were his splendid hands. They were quicker than a pickpocket’s,” Shastri wrote in his book, reported Hindustan Times.
"No other wicketkeeper, at least in the era MS has played, was that fast. He was the best in the world for a long while, and in white-ball cricket by a long distance.
"MS was sharp in his observation of whatever was happening on the field, and uncanny when it came to taking decisions based on 'reading' the trend of play. This quality of his went unnoticed simply because he made such few mistakes.
“His success with the Decision Review System shows not just fine judgement, but also how well he would be positioned behind the stumps to make the call."
In the book, Shastri also touched upon the shock Test retirement of Dhoni that took the world aback. Post the Boxing Day Test against Australia in 2014, Dhoni announced his retirement from the longest format of the game, and it was an announcement that shocked the cricketing fraternity, for, at that point in time, the Jharkhand man was still leading the side.
Shastri opined that Dhoni could easily have carried on for a long time in Test cricket, and labelled the former skipper’s sudden decision to retire a ‘brave’ and ‘selfless’ one.
"Still one of the top-three fittest players on the team, he would have the opportunity to boost his career stats if nothing else. True, he wasn't getting any younger, but he wasn't that old either! His decision just didn't make sense," Shastri wrote of Dhoni's decision to retire.
"All cricketers say landmarks and milestones don't matter, but some do. I approached the issue in a roundabout way, probing for an opening to make him change his mind. But there was a firmness to MS's tone that stopped me from pushing the matter any further. Looking back, I think his decision was correct; also brave and selfless," Shastri wrote.