By Debayan Mukherjee
The M.S. Dhoni we have seen in the recent past is not the one we have known over the years. The grey sideburns might have worked as a reminder to the world every day that his time is over, but the decision was made by Dhoni on August 15, the day of India’s independence, that it is time to bid adieu to international cricket and watch the game from the other side of the fence.
He looked a pale shadow of his former self for a while, but that cannot take away what has been an illustrious career, first as a player and then as the leader of the pack.
From the inaugural World T20 triumph in 2007 to the fabled 2011 50-over World Cup win on home soil and then the 2013 Champions Trophy victory in England, Dhoni led by example and tasted the success which no other Indian captain has ever managed.
He even led India to the number one ranking, both in Test and ODI formats.
IANS takes a look at the five episodes during Dhoni’s stint as India captain which proved that he was the coolest of them all.
– 2007 World T20 final
With the seniors rested and under a new captain, no one really gave India a chance in a format which was new to them. India under Dhoni with the long hair then proved critics wrong with spectacular wins over England, South Africa and Australia to reach the final where arch-rivals Pakistan awaited them.
It was a nerve-wracking summit clash and came down to Pakistan needing 13 runs from the final over. Of all people, Dhoni handed the ball to Joginder Sharma raising quite a few eyebrows.
Joginder was hit for a six by Pakistan skipper Misbah-ul-Haq in the second ball of the 20th over but what happened in the next ball will be remembered forever. Misbah went for a needless scoop shot over short fine leg but could only manage to find S. Sreesanth who took an easy catch and helped India win by 5 runs in the inaugural ICC World T20.
– 2011 World Cup final
Yuvraj Singh’s all-round brilliance had helped India reach the final on home soil. India had the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag opening the batting but chasing a challenging 275 for victory in the summit clash against Sri Lanka at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, India lost both iconic openers inside 31 runs. Gautam Gambhir came out at No. 3 and batted brilliantly for his 97 but it was Dhoni’s masterstroke to push himself up the order and ahead of in-form Yuvraj which did the trick for India.
The Ranchi dasher smashed an unforgettable 91 off 79 balls including the winning six off Nuwan Kulasekara in the 49th over to lead India to a second World Cup crown. It was exceptional from Dhoni both in the mind and with the bat as he theatrically became part of cricketing folklore.
– 2013 Champions Trophy – Asking Rohit to open
Rohit Sharma has said time and again that Dhoni improved his ODI career by asking him to open the batting in the format before the 2013 Champions Trophy in England. Since opening the batting, Rohit has scaled heights in jet speed and can now be termed as one of the best opening batsmen in the game after his superlative performance in the 2019 World Cup where he not only finished as the highest run getter but also scored a record five centuries.
Rohit, earlier in 2019, became the fastest to 6,000 runs as an opener in ODI cricket and now has 6,691 runs in 130 innings opening the batting.
– 2013 Champions Trophy – Handing Ishant Sharma the ball
A defining moment came in the rain-affected final of the Champions Trophy in Birmingham where Dhoni asked Ishant Sharma, who had been expensive before that, to bowl the 18th over and the tall pacer snared two wickets in two balls to break Eoin Morgan and Ravi Bopara’s 64-run stand and eventually helped India win the game and the coveted trophy.
– 2016 World T20
It was not a tournament where India ended as champions, losing to West Indies in the semi-finals. But in his last ICC event as skipper, Dhoni was brilliant once again in leading the side and India’s one-run win over Bangladesh had a lot of Dhoni moments which will be remembered forever.
Hardik Pandya took three wickets off the last three balls as Bangladesh needed 11 runs in the final over chasing 147 for victory. Dhoni’s unbelievable stumping to remove Sabbir Rahman and his field placements in the final over and a run-out off the last ball were the highlights.