Dhoni Can Prosper in Twenty20

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The fast-paced slogathon which is Twenty20 cricket seems ideally suited to the dashing style of India's pin-up boy and captain-for-the-tournament Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

But the reality was somewhat different in the one Twenty20 international he has played - against South Africa in Johannesburg.

He was out for an ignominious duck with Charl Langeveldt bowling him after just two balls.

India are yet to embrace the phenomenon of Twenty20 cricket - despite winning that international match - and specifically requested not to play any on their recent tour of England.

And, despite their recent struggles in the one-day format, the Indians are confident they can be competitive in South Africa.

"There are no favourites in Twenty20 as the team which plays better on that particular day will win," said India team manager Lalchand Rajput.

"We have match winners like Dhoni, Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh and Dinesh Kaarthick in the team.

"They are players who can win matches through their batting alone on their day."

Dhoni has played five other Twenty20 games, with a high score of 73 not out and an average of 41.00, which compares favourably with his one-day international figure of 46.97.

The 26-year-old scored a magnificent 148 in just his fifth one-day international for India - against arch-rivals Pakistan in Vishakapatnam - and he continued to impress with an unbeaten innings of 183 against Sri Lanka, passing Adam Gilchrist's previous highest total scored by a wicketkeeper.

He made his first-class debut in the 1999/2000 season, but it took him nearly five years to establish himself as a major force in domestic cricket.

He scored a quickfire hundred to propel East Zone to the Deodhar Trophy in 2004 and followed it up with a brilliant 60 to lead his side to the Duleep Trophy.

This earned him selection for the India A team and he rewarded them with two blistering hundreds against Pakistan A to put himself firmly into the driving seat for full international honours.

These came in December 2004 when he made his one-day international debut against Bangladesh - but was run out for a duck after facing just a single ball.

He had to wait until a year later before making his Test debut - against Sri Lanka in a rain-affected match in Chennai.

He impressed with 30 off 54 balls and has commanded a regular place in the side ever since.

The youngster was handed the vice-captaincy of the India team for the tour of Ireland and England in 2007, despite increasing question marks over his ability with the gloves.

His batting also suffered a decline, but he stayed positive and made 76 off just 84 balls - with seven fours and two sixes - in a warm-up match against the England Lions just before the start of the first Test and then battled hard to save the game at Lord's.

Whether playing one-day games or longer matches, Dhoni's batting tactics rarely seem to change.

Although he has shown himself capable of playing a composed innings when the situation demands it - in making an unbeaten 76 off 159 balls in 203 minutes in that first Test, given free rein he always opts to search for the boundaries and score quickly.

A fast runner between the wickets and agile behind the stumps, Dhoni could be a major asset to the India side in the inaugural ICC World Twenty20, none more so than in the enthusiastic way he is likely to captain the side.

"Dhoni has been a part of the Indian team for some time now and he has gained in experience," said Rajput.

"He has also learnt a lot by playing under Rahul Dravid and alongside senior players like Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly."

The introduction of Dhoni to the India team brought a renewed freshness and he was immediately a hit with the large crowds which follow Indian cricket like a religion.

His shoulder-length hair and bright smile, combined with his flair on the field, brought him instant admiration and a plethora of sponsorship contracts.His face looks out from billboards all over the country and he is second only to Sachin Tendulkar in popularity.

A candid speaker with an excellent grasp of the English language, he is also a PR dream, providing an all-round marketable package.

If Dhoni can help India win their first international one-day tournament since they shared the Champions Trophy with Sri Lanka in 2002, he could yet see his star rise even further.

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