As the euphoria of celebrating the success of Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the captain and the player, settles in, a certain Kiran More is heaving a huge sigh of relief and contentment. More, a former chairman of selectors, feels justified about the decisions he and his selection panel made nearly a decade ago.
When MS Dhoni was first picked for an international assignment with the India A squad for a quadrangular tournament in Nairobi in 2003-04, More was the chief selector who gave him the spot. Thanks to his exploits in Nairobi, Dhoni was drafted into Team India for the bilateral ODI series vs Bangladesh in December 2004, again courtesy More.
So when did Mr. More first come to know about the 'Ranchi Rambo'?
"We first saw this boy from Jharkhand during the local East Zone one-dayers in Bhubaneswar and were impressed by his hitting ability. We then saw him play a good knock in the Duleep Trophy final for East Zone against North Zone in Mohali and that's when we were impressed," recalls More.
Legendary Australian wicket-keeper Adam Gilchrist was the benchmark back then with his all-round devastating hitting ability and solid glove-work behind the stumps. Indian selectors wanted to groom a wicket-keeper who could bat with a more ability to dominate, especially in ODI cricket. The patchy performances of both rookie wicket-keepers Parthiv Patel and Dinesh Karthik did not exude enough confidence amongst the Indian selectors.
"Parthiv and Dinesh both did well in whatever chances they got, but they were far too young and were in and out of the side. Rahul Dravid had to keep wickets as a result of that and we didn't want to lose out on Rahul's batting abilities because of the pressures of wicket-keeping.
"Hence we decided to give this youngster a chance. He didn't do well in his first couple of games but soon came into his own," More said.
More also reveals that there was heated argument amongst the selection panel when they decided to pick Dhoni for the Bangladesh tour. "Yes, there was resistance. The East Zone lobby wanted Deep Dasgupta and Dhoni too was from East Zone. Deep had done well and had scored a hundred against England, but we finally reached a consensus," he was quoted as saying by a leading national daily.
Apart from his role as a senior selector, More, an enthusiastic keeper of the mid 1980s and early 1990s has been a wicket-keeping guru to many budding wicket-keepers in the country. The skills behind the stumps are something that excites him. Seeing the early days of Dhoni as a rookie operator behind the stumps, More says the current India skipper was a work in progress when he rose to the seen.
"He had to work hard initially. His hand position, a vital factor in wicketkeeping, was not ideal. He was more of a batsman and less of a keeper. But he had a great desire to learn and was hungry to work hard," the 50-year-old added.
Dhoni's skills now got all the praise from More. "Once he was in the team, he did all that was needed to make him into a world-class keeper. Today, his hand position is near perfect and that's why he can pull off so many stumpings. He is also an expert reader of the pitch and that's why he reacts so well," he said.
More also says the 32-year-old's cool character as the reason behind his success. "When you are as cool under pressure as Dhoni is, the body stays relaxed and that's important for a keeper. If you are tense, you will be stiff. Today, I can safely say that he is the best keeper in the world," he concluded.