“Dhoni finishes off in style. India lifts the World Cup after 28 years… it’s an Indian captain, who’s been absolutely magnificent, in the night of the final.”
These iconic words of Ravi Shastri might not narrate the entire story of our beloved captain cool. Yet gives us enough to ponder upon the making of one of the most reliable and stylish finishers, the cricket world has recently witnessed. At this point in time, Dhoni is one of the greatest captains of all-format Indian cricket witnessed and what makes it more interesting is the Dhoni era comes in between the Great-Ganguli era and the Vibrant-Virat era.
In this article, let us walk through the corridors of history, as legends call it, and cherish the journey of this iconic player Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Initial Years of Striving & Thrive:
Born and brought up in a humble family living in Ranchi, Dhoni’s life was ordinary yet grit, perseverance, and self-belief was extraordinary. Being brought up in a middle-class Indian family, which views sport as more a hobby than a career, his father was more than happy to see him as a ticket collector. It was his own self-belief that made him choose a less traveled road. This hitter from Ranchi already had attention from the local cricketing circuit but belonging to a backward state has its own limitations. Finally, Dhoni broke this ceiling by getting a call to play for India-A against Kenya. Dhoni showed his butcherish style of batting against mature-fast bowlers in Kenya and made a place for Indian cricket.
Duck to Diamond
Destiny plays humor in its own way and in this story, Dhoni was out for a duck in his debut against Bangladesh. For the entire series, he seemed like a lost child in the world of maturity. Ganguli, the erstwhile captain, showed more faith than anybody else and gave him more opportunity. His beast mode was unleashed in the match against Pakistan in Vishakhapattanam when he scored 148 runs against the likes of Shoeb Akhtar. This was followed by his highest score in ODI, 183 not-out, in reply to the 300+ score put by Sri Lanka. With these two innings, it was clear to selectors that like his innings, his career is going to be longer than anticipated in international cricket.
New format – New captain #Dhoni
After India’s poor performance in the ODI world-cup 2007, India was looking for a young leader with maturity to lead the country in the inaugural T20 World Cup to be played in South Africa. India had faces like Yuvraj, Gambhir, and Harbhajan but Mahi was entrusted the job to lead the team with seniors in this saga. His calm and composed nature helped India to sail through and emerge as the winner. From there onwards, it was just a matter of time for Mahi to lead the country across the formats. Soon, as old guards of Indian Cricket started retiring, Mahi collected badges after badges and by 2008 he was leading the Indian Cricket team across the formats.
From Sheer Power-Hitter to a Mastermind
Let us not forget that Dhoni made his entry in the era of Sachin, VVS, Dravid, and Ganguly. These players, apart from their performance in numbers, were also known for their eloquence, which treat the eyes to watch them play their iconic shots. When Dhoni used to hit the ball, it served the purpose but did not get appreciation from people who were used to book-definition of eloquence. Neither of these critics understood his intention to drag the match to last over while chasing and snatching it away in the last few balls with his uncanny style. Until Dhoni became more than a mere part-time batsman and started winning matches for teams against teams like Australia in CB Cup.
What else caused this brilliancy was his ability to read the game and constant observation from behind the stump. Players like Jadeja, Kaludeep, and Chahal would often look for his clues and change their variations accordingly. With the bat, MS Dhoni scored 6,633 runs as a captain in ODIs, which is the second-most by any captain after Ponting’s 8,497 runs.
Years of Rebuilding Team and Dominating World Cricket
2008 onwards, India was in the phase of rebuilding the team and Dhoni backed his players more for their capabilities and less for instant performance. In a way, he was paying his debt to Ganguli, when he backed him after successive low scores in the initial years and made sure his team can dominate as and when they want, especially in limited over cricket. Dhoni is the only captain so far to have won all three ICC events, T20 World Cup 2007, ODI World Cup 2011, and Champions Trophy 2013. India was also a finalist in T20 2014 World Cup and Semi-finalist in T20 World Cup 2016 under his captaincy. Though, after playing 60 matches as test-cricket captain of India and winning 45% of those matches, Dhoni resigned from the captaincy of the Test team in 2014 to focus on limited over cricket.
Thalaiva: Other than Rajnikanth
Dhoni is the only competitor if there can be any, to Rajnikanth’s legacy when it comes to getting love across Tamilnadu. Thanks to Chennai Super Kings for adopting this Ranchi boy from the beginning and Dhoni paid his tribute to people by winning IPL trophies in bulk. Dhoni-led CSK for 12 years and won 4 times and were runner-ups 5 times. They also won the champions’ league twice and CSK holds the record for winning the maximum percentage of matches by any team in IPL, again thanks to Dhoni. In season 2021 Dhoni seems out of touch in his batting form but not with his shrewd captaincy which ultimately won the title. This year, MSD resigned from captaincy, which seems a premeditated step, and throned his pupil, Sir Jadeja.
The ever-lasting saga of Mahi Dhoni is no less than an ideal role model for any cricket aspirant anywhere in India. He was fire when the team felt exhausted, ice when there was pressure, torch when they felt lost and above all a humble gentleman this cricket world witnessed. A day would come when he will retire from all forms of cricket but till then let us enjoy each and every moment he is on the field.