The Karate Kick: Dhoni Keeps It Interesting
His wicket-keeping often doesn’t get the credit MS Dhoni’s captaincy is routinely given. But his cricketing nous is always on
They say genius lies not in simply being able to execute the complex but in imagining the simple path no one else had discovered. Witness Steve Jobs’s revolutionary solution to zooming in and out of images. Intuitively you would want to be able to expand or contract views with your fingers, but until Jobs did it first, you didn’t realise just how intuitive and simple it was to expand and contract images by mimicking the motion with your fingers instead of tapping away at a button.
It doesn’t quite match up to multi-touch technology yet, but MS Dhoni making use of the fact that wicketkeepers need not necessarily use their hands only to stop the ball had an element of the simplicity of genius. Wicketkeepers wearing gloves, and doing all the heavy lifting with their hands unlike outfielders, made it easy to be blind to this fact. For those who came in late and are unaware of the karate kick move Dhoni has unfurled during this edition of the Indian Premier League, he has been regularly sticking his right leg out as soon as he sees the batsman transfer weight on the back foot and shape to play a late cut. On the two occasions that have been captured for posterity and replayed, Dhoni managed to stop the ball, once f rom Manan Vohra agai nst Ki ngs XI Punjab and once from Virat Kohli against Royal Challengers Bangalore. But if you observe Dhoni, he has been sticking his leg out on other occasions too — except that the batsman has not played the ball behind the wicket, so the TV cameras haven’t lingered on the wicketkeeper.
Dhoni judges his bowler’s length, observes the batsman’s movement and makes his decision — all in a split-second. You could argue that this method means Dhoni will be putting himself at a disadvantage if the batsman’s shot doesn’t come off as intended and results in a possible catch. With one leg in the air, stability is lost and Dhoni may not be able to react as quickly. I suspect though, that he has thought this through, and with cricketing judgement on the field, Dhoni has few equals. Then too, there is the format to consider. In Twenty20 cricket, a dot-ball is sometimes worth as much, or more, than a wicket got at the cost of a couple of extra runs.
It needed the sort of out-of-box thinking that Dhoni has exhibited at intervals on the field and which ensures watching him can still set pulses racing, even in the twilight of his career.
Though of course, whether it is in fact the twilight or not is the great debate. It’s probably a good thing Dhoni thought of the karate-kick save after the World T20. Else, who is to say he might not have called a journalist up to sit beside him,