Melbourne: The swashbuckling wicketkeeper-batsman from Jharkhand, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, has made a huge impact on Indian cricket and has established himself as one of the key players in the side, feels India's assistant coach Lalchand Rajput.
''I am 100 per cent sure the Australian public will love him by the end of the series,'' Rajput said.''He is our flamboyant macho man with the bat, and he has become a very crucial member of this side.''
Stating that India has found an answer to veteran Aussie keeper Adam Gilchrist in Dhoni, Rajput said, ''To have a person just like Gilchrist gives everyone great confidence. He can change the course of a game very quickly, and he gives the batsmen above him great confidence.''
26-year-old Dhoni, who captained India to the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup earlier this year, has been appointed as skipper of the one-day squad. The emergence of Dhoni as a reliable lower-middle order batsman is one of the most significant developments in the Indian batting line-up in recent years.
''I think people forgot about Sachin and Sourav for a while after the Twenty20 World Cup,'' Rajput said. ''When he came back, he was a demigod to the people. He is on the cusp of being at the status of Sachin, Sourav and Rahul. After his success at the Twenty20 World Cup, he has just about reached that elite group.''
''People feel they can relate to him, and they love the way he plays the game. Nobody thought it was possible to come from where he did and become captain of India,'' he added.''That kind of fame could have a bad effect on some people, but he is very mature about it.
''The recent series against Australia taught him some valuable lessons about what is needed to succeed at this level. He learnt a lot about aggression and intensity, and I think they will serve him well in the long term. I know he is looking forward to taking the fight up to the Australians.''
Dhoni, who has played 22 Tests for the national side, has an average of 38.76. However, he is more successful in the shorter version of the game with an impressive average of 43.66 and an amazing strike rate of 94.72.