There is talent. There is luck. And then there is character.
All define a athlete and can be seen in different measures in each sport.
Talent may be a gift or derived. Luck is a gift. But character can only be moulded and formed by an athlete on his own.
It is MS Dhoni’s streetsmart character that has distinguished him and allowed him to form his own style among the pantheon of India’s cricketing greats from Sachin Tendulkar to Rahul Dravid. No wonder, Dhoni has a liking for similar players who wear their guts on their sleeve and ready to push the boundaries every time there is a challenge.
Given a choice then, he will always prefer a Praveen Kumar to a Munaf Patel or even Sreesanth, for that matter.
Such subtle choices can make decide fortunes of a crucial match like this Lord’s Test. If a captain is as good as his team and if India lose this game, Ishant Sharma should find himself to blame for not rising to the occasion with that little bit extra when the challenge arose for the tall bowler (pun intended).
The bowler bowled 11 overs in the first session and got a nice break of nearly an hour over lunch where the physio surely must have or could helped with his bit in relaxing a stiff body. Yet he refused to take up the gauntlet when Dhoni asked him.
He says he is human after all but that is the challenges that match-winners take. That was why Sachin Tendulkar took up the challenge of bowling in the 1993 Hero Cup semi-final and gave away three runs when six were needed.
That was why Ashish Nehra is more respected in one’s eyes because he may have failed some and won some but has never shied away from bowling the final over in make-or-break situations.
PS: It is also one reason why none of Harbhajan’s 400 wickets evoke a sense of having watched magic happen because his rate of failures, when India have missed the firepower in the fast bowling department, has been high. But that is another topic for another day.