Former India captain and cricket legend MS Dhoni turns 40 today, July 7. In an international career spanning 15 years, Dhoni traversed the journey from being a surprise selection in the Indian team to taking cricket in the country to lofty heights. The boy from Ranchi smashed 10000-plus runs in one-day cricket and nearly 5000 in Tests apart from taking numerous catches and effecting some brilliant stumpings. Dhoni remains the only captain to date to have lifted three ICC trophies in shorter formats. On his birthday, we go beyond MS Dhoni’s illustrious stats and analyse five factors that have contributed immensely to the legacy of the former cricketer.
1. Grabbing the god-sent opportunity
Dhoni did not have a great start to his international career. While his wicket-keeping was decent in the first few ODI matches he played, he failed to score too many runs in these games. Then Team India captain Sourav Ganguly though spotted something special in Dhoni’s batting. In the second ODI of the six-match series against Pakistan in 2005, Ganguly promoted Dhoni to No. 3 as India batted first. The unconventional batsman hammered a blistering 148 in only 123 balls with the aid of 15 fours and four sixes. The rest, as the cliché goes, is history. Dhoni was waiting for that one chance to come his way and, when he got it, he pounced on it like a hungry tiger.
2. Displaying his captaincy skills at a very early stage
Just a couple of years after making his international debut, Dhoni was thrust into the leadership role. India had floundered under the captaincy of Rahul Dravid in the 50-over World Cup final in 2007. In the same year, the inaugural T20 World Cup was held. India decided to go in for an overhaul and sent a team packed with youngsters to South Africa, led by the relatively inexperienced Dhoni. The youngster, despite the lack of expertise, marshalled his troops brilliantly and ended up guiding India to the title. Dhoni’s refreshing approach had done the trick and the horrors of the shock exit in the 50-over format had been forgotten.
3. Leading from the front
The one common quality in all successful leaders is that they lead from the front. Dhoni did so on the biggest of all stages – the 2011 World Cup final. India were chasing a challenging target to lift the World Cup for the second time. Even though Yuvraj Singh was the man in form, Dhoni decided to promote himself ahead of the left-hander in the batting order. Mind you, Dhoni had struggled for runs in the previous game and his dismissal could have put India under immense pressure. However, Dhoni played a serene knock of 91 not out and sent the country into a celebratory mood with his winning six off Nuwan Kulasekara.
4. A tactical genius in limited-overs cricket
Apart from being an excellent limited-overs batsman and a good captain, Dhoni was a tactical genius as well. He had great instincts and, more often than not, knew what to do to pull the team out of trouble. Dhoni’s move to give the last over to the unheralded Joginder Sharma in the 2007 World Cup final against Pakistan has often been hailed as a masterstroke. He guided spinners from behind the wickets, planning dismissals with some shrewd moves. Dhoni’s absence was clearly felt when Indian spinners struggled once he was no longer behind the wickets.
5. Walking away into the sunset, silently
Like several Indian legends, Dhoni also deserved a grand farewell. He pretty much knew that the 2019 World Cup would be his swansong. But there was no grand announcement, no lifting of the bat as he walked off the field at Manchester after being run-out in agonizing fashion. Post the tournament, Dhoni took a ‘break’ from international cricket. He did not ask for a farewell. Instead, on India’s Independence Day last year, he announced his retirement through a simple yet touching social media post. That was it. Dhoni had retired. But his legacy will never.