“No,I’m on national duty, everything else can wait!”
Said Dhoni during the 2015 world cup when asked about meeting his newborn daughter. A career marked by selflessness and an incessant national spirit, MS Dhoni played cricket at its professional best. Dilip Vengsarkar, the selector of Indian cricket team in ‘07, thought Dhoni was the right person to shoulder the team’s responsibility. Criticism never seemed to leave his back. However the Jharkhand-born wicketkeeper was keen on his tactics and firm with his intuitions. After India’s disappointing end to 2007 WC campaign and after the seniors opting to bow out of the inaugural WT20 2007, Dhoni was selected as a captain over many others. Little did anyone know about his supremacy over the game, captaincy also aspired his cricketing skills and India overcame the status of being the underdogs to be crowned champions.
Taking over the reigns in the longer format, MSD guided India to be number one in the test rankings for the first time since it’s incision. In his short stint as a captain till then, what stood out was the win against Australia by 320 runs in 2008, India’s biggest in terms of victory margin. Also the CB series win in 07-08 was a golden feather on Dhoni’s cap as India had won a series down under after over two decades.
“A true captain is a one who steps out of his comfort zone when team needs it.”
Post the Greg Chappell phase, the atmosphere in the dressing room persisted to have mixed emotions. MS Dhoni as a captain along with the newly appointed coach in Gary Kirsten combined in well to set up a friendly environment. Dhoni’s calm influence was rubbing off on all his teammates. Cricket was under continuous transition and since the birth of the shortest format, fielding gained much more importance. Owing to achieve high fielding standards Dhoni held ground, boldly stating the insignificance of the presence of a few senior slow-to-move players. It raised questions and many heads cropped up with disgust. Dhoni didn’t seem affected. He had his plans in place and India was now under a transition setting up aims on regaining supremacy.
Captaincy helped him mature into a fierce, confident and an intelligent batsman. Dhoni was never seen succumbing to pressure. Even under national responsibilities, he had his apt judgements in play and captaincy often bought out the best of him with million hopes across the globe fueling the cause.
Anchoring the innings till the end and unleashing the attack onto the opposition when required, MS Dhoni is arguably world’s best finisher. His staggering average of over 50 in ODIs, with the fact that most of his batting came lower down the order is worth many accolades. His athleticism is still an inspiration to many. Indian team was shaping up well and with an even balance of experience and passion, Dhoni stepped into the field for 2011 WC trying to reciprocate the 28-yr old glory. India had a few initial hiccups including a tie against the English, but a masterclass of batting from Yuvraj and some inspired bowling from the veteran Zaheer Khan saw India in the finals against Sri Lanka. 2nd April 2011, Wankhede witnessed a miracle. Dhoni had surprisingly promoted himself up the order and a fluent 91* saw India clinch the title. Ravi Shastri’s “And Dhoni finishes off in style, a magnificent strike into the crowd! India lift the World Cup after 28 long years! It’s the Indian captain who has been absolutely brilliant on the eve of the final!!” Still reverberates in the ears of each Indian. The win symbolised Yuvraj’s dedication and Sachin’s supremacy but somewhere it also dictated the birth of the MSD era of Indian cricket.
What followed was the darkest phase of MSDs career. The world ODI champions India crumbled like a house of cards in England and unlike any other horror story, this curse never seemed to fade. One whitewash was followed by another and India were left low spirited post the Australia tour in 2012. It was a time when even the ‘Wall’ Rahul Dravid decided to step away from national duties. As it would often be, the loss was booked on the captain and MSD was again amidst controversies and criticisms.
The return test tour of England was also a nightmare. Meanwhile India somehow managed to maintain a consistent record in the shorter formats. Australia’s tour to India 2012-13 bought joy on the faces of many as India gave the visitors a taste of their own medicine. Dhoni’s mesmerizing knock of 224 in the first test at Chennai is still regarded as the best knock by an Indian skipper under pressure.
Dhoni by now was well versed in handling tactical paradoxes and crunched situations. His speed and accuracy also increased with age. Overall, an unorthodox but a matured leader stood right in front guiding the Indian ship. The summer of 2013 had a bright shine as India lifted the Champions Trophy with a supreme unbeaten record. A curtailed apparent T20 finale needed a MsD captaincy masterpiece in the 17th over to set the dice rolling in India’s favor. The 2014 T20 WC was no different. MS Dhoni mastered his troops exceedingly well as India’s performance stood out despite the loss to Sri Lanka in the finals. An impressive series win against Australia, England and Sri Lanka ensured a top notch in the rankings for MS’s men.
Letting everyone know their role in the team, motivating the youngsters to give their best and even guiding them through their descends, Ms Dhoni never let anyone down. He didn’t hesitate to promote anyone above him. Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Mohammad Shami and B Kumar are a product of the Dhoni school of teaching. He was not only riding the nation’s hopes on his shoulders but also nurturing the young talent to give their ecstatic best.
Giving up to an extensive schedule of cricket, a deteriorating form and an out of touch batting, Dhoni eventually decided to step down as India’s test captain. But little would he seem Dhoni if surprises weren’t multiplied. Dhoni also hung his boots midway through the Australia series in 2014. Virat Kohli standing in as captain in absence of injured Dhoni in the first test had shown signs of aggression and MS felt it was the apt time to pass on the long-format legacy to his able reigns.
The scenario did hamper his performance in the shorter formats. India’s campaign in 2015 WC was hurdled at the semifinals by Australia and the impressive start had a disastrous end. Rather than praising the dedication of father-to-be captain, as it had always been, MS was again under scrutiny for the loss. Shocking series defeats against Bangladesh and South Africa in the near past then fuelled the rumors of him bidding farewell. However as exprected, handling the media wasn’t much of a problem for him. He toned the press conferences in his favor with ease and was also upto the task of giving a tough reply when needed.
2016 was a high spirited year in Indian cricket. Whitewashing the Aussies in their own backyard, winning the Asia Cup in Bangladesh against a seaming Mohd. Aamir and then hosting the T20 WC, the start was no short of a miracle. The infamous WC beginning against New Zealand was neutralized with a win against Pakistan and Bangladesh. MS Dhoni’s last over intuitional captaincy heroics and the match-winning sprint laid all his credibility talks to rest. India did lose to WI in the semifinals but unlike any other tournament, team and the captain gathered more praise than criticism.
With the homecoming of a long test season for India, skipper Dhoni was on a break. However he rather pounced back hard on the comeback where India whitewashed the Kiwis.
In the 12 yr career, Dhoni has shaped up extremely well. Not only as a captain or a wicketkeeper but also as a player well aware of match situations.
“Nobody has seen form. It’s just a state where you are confident and you think positively.” Dhoni always played the sport in true spirits and his calm head also radiated positivity in the team.
“Dhoni is a great leader by example. Someone whom I’ve always admired for his ability to remain balanced and have the sense of equanimity about his captaincy”
The record 6-time captain of ICC ODI Team of the Year, Mahendra Singh Dhoni spurred a revolution in Indian cricket. Describing a legacy left behind with words would not do justice to a man who never blinked an eye giving himself in for the country.His dedication is an inspiration and his prowess as a cricketer is unparalleled.