Dhoni: The Captain

Earlier today, the news of MS Dhoni stepping down as India’s white-ball captain sent tremors across the cricketing world. We take a look back at some of the greatest moments of Indian Cricket under MS Dhoni’s leadership in the limited overs formats.

Dhoni’s first captaincy venture was at the inaugural ICC World T20 in South Africa in 2007. He was appointed as the captain of a young Indian contingent with the senior players opting out of the tournament to give young players a chance. India had only played one T20 before the tournament, and the format was new to every team.

India went on to win the tournament in thrilling fashion and the world was to see the kind of captain Dhoni was going to be: cool but fearless. This was shown in the final over of the Final against arch rivals Pakistan. Pakistan needed thirteen to win with one wicket in hand with Misbah-ul-Haq smashing the ball all around the Wanderers. The whole world had decided on who was going to bowl the final over – lead spinner Harbhajan Singh – but Dhoni decided to go to Joginder Sharma (remember him?)

This in itself was a baffling move and was a huge gamble. And it felt like the match had gone out of India’s hands when Sharma conceded seven off the first two balls, only to win India the Final off the very next ball. This move would be Dhoni’s armoury for the years to come. A young captain leading a young side to a World title in his first ever tournament as captain. He would go on to captain India in 72 T20s, winning 41 and losing 28.

Dhoni first took charge of the ODI team against Australia in a bilateral ODI series in India in September 2007. He would go on to captain India in 199 ODIS, winning 110 and losing 74.

The 2011 World Cup was arguably Dhoni’s greatest achievement as Indian Captain. India lifted the World Cup after a 28 year gap, and Dhoni was at the centre of the win in the final. Promoting himself to number five, ahead of the in form Yuvraj Singh, Dhoni had had a quiet tournament until then. He came in with India 114/3 chasing 275: the match was in the balance. Dhoni then played one of the greatest innings ever in a World Cup final, scoring 91* and sealing the World Cup with his trademark winning shot, a six straight down the ground.

In the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy in England, India had breezed through the group stage with convincing performances and convincingly beat Sri Lanka in the semis to set up a final clash with England. The match was reduced to 20 overs a side, and after India batted first, they struggled to reach 129 and set up a seemingly easy target for the English batsman. After early strikes, India looked on top before a partnership brewed between Ravi Bopara and Eoin Morgan. With the wicket assisting spinners and the overs scarce, Dhoni was again in a dilemma and decided to get Ishant Sharma on with England needing 28 off 18 balls. Ishant’s figures read 3-0-27-0 at that point and the first two balls off the over went for eight runs. But Ishant was to redeem himself. He got Morgan and Bopara off consecutive balls, before the rest of the side held their nerve and handed India a five-run win: another feather out of Dhoni’s thinking hat.

Whereas many batsmen see their batting suffer under the burden of the captaincy, Dhoni has not suffered the same issue: he made 6683 runs as captain at 54 in ODIs, with a strike-rate of 86.

While the cricketing world has been blessed with many great captains throughout the game’s history, very few match the legacy that Dhoni leaves as captain of Indian Cricket. Captain Cool’s innovative and unorthodox captaincy will not only be missed by Indian fans but the whole cricketing world. Don’t worry. He hasn’t retired.