India may ever be in the process of making progressions by leaps and bounds but if there is one thing that has not changed (for the better) in all this while it has been cricket. The sport has never lost out on importance in the ever so transient economic and political conditions of our country that even today, in The New India, the sport is widely across the country given the status of a religion. Such is the pride the nation holds in its cricket team. Also, as our country has witnessed legends leaving their mark in the sport time and time again making our motherland proud, there has been no shortage of Gods in this religion. With the retirement of cricketing greats Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid in the not so distant past, India has more recently looked up to their captain, the man with the iron fist: Mahendra Singh Dhoni to take the helm of the paramount affair that cricket is. And has he delivered! The cricketing maestro has consistently led the nation to greater heights, breaking record after record to establish the Indian cricket team as one of the most menacing sides in the modern game. Read through the eventful cricketing journey of the new hero of the New India, as they take upon the mighty challenge of retaining the World Cup.
Mahi’s Memorable Beginnings
The ever so humble captain of the Indian cricket team, unsurprisingly, also has humble beginnings to his story. MS Dhoni was born on 7th July 1981 to a Rajput family in Ranchi, Jharkhand, and his father Pan Singh was employed in the PSU Mecon Limited at a lower level management position. Growing up with a sister and a brother, Dhoni was a spirited kid at DAV Jawahar Vidya Mandir with a knack for both badminton and football, both of which he played at the district and even the club level in his school days. However, he was soon going to be catapulted into an entirely different sport by his school physical education teacher and his first mentor Keshab Ranjan Banerjee, a move that would eventually change the fate of the entire cricketing scenario in India.
Noticing Dhoni’s skill and agility as a goalkeeper, Banerjee Sir appointed him as the wicketkeeper of the school team. Stubborn yet highly curious and calculative, Dhoni quickly climbed up the ranks in the batting order, helping his school team retain the championship title for seven consecutive years! His eye catching batting performance in 1997/98 in the Under 16 Vinoo Mankad Championship could be described as the turning point in his career which led to his selection in the Under 19 Bihar squad. In order to realize his full potential in cricket and to support himself and his family, Dhoni took up the job of a ticket collector for two years at the Kharagpur railway station.
Stubborn yet highly curious and calculative
While his stint for Bihar’s junior cricket team was not as glamorous, his efforts saw the team make it to the finals of the Cooch Behar Trophy where they lost to Punjab, which interestingly also marked Dhoni’s first encounter with future Indian cricket team mate and all rounder Yuvraj Singh.
The next season, Dhoni’s debut in the prestigious Ranji Trophy in 1999-2000 at the age of eighteen for the senior Bihar cricket team saw a series of impressive performances including his first century, which continued till 2002-03 later on for Jharkhand. This ultimately led to the discovery of his gargantuan talent by the BCCI in 2003, which booked him a spot in the India A team.
Dhoni was not at all daunted by his huge promotion. With one of his then best wicket keeping efforts and aggressive batting performances which included back to back centuries against teams such as Zimbabwe XI, Pakistan A and Kenya, Dhoni had sent across the message to the entire nation that he was just getting started. A total score of 362 runs at an average of 72.40 from him in the tri nation series against Kenya and Pakistan A caught the eye of the then Indian team captain Sourav Ganguly and others. Unsurprisingly, not long after that in 2004-05 Mahendra Singh Dhoni was handed his ticket in the Indian ODI team for their tour of Bangladesh. From then on, it was only a matter of time before ‘magnificent Mahi’ would be plunged into the limelight.
MSD Marches into International Fame
They say that not all things may run as smoothly as you’d expect them to at the beginning of a new venture. The same was true for Dhoni, quite literally too as he saw himself being run out for a duck in his debut ODI match which was played against Bangladesh. However, in no time did he make up for his lacklustre performance in the series as his 5th ODI game against rivals Pakistan witnessed his demolition skills with an astonishing 148 runs scored off of just 123 balls, a new record for an Indian wicketkeeper which he would go on to shatter again in the same year. Dhoni had now firmly fixed his place in the Indian squad and he had no intention of stopping just there.
Proof to the above statement is given by his ‘man of the series’ performance in November 2005 in the bilateral ODI series against neighbours Sri lanka. Scoring a match winning massive unbeaten 183 runs off of 145 balls in one of the games he broke the record for the highest score by a batsman in the latter innings. He also ended the series with the highest total score of 346. His consistency with the bat enabled him to also cement his place in the Indian Test cricket team by December 2005. He scored his first Test 100 off of just 93 balls during India’s tour of Pakistan in January-February 2006. His consistency with the bat and his wicket keeping skills were intact as he delivered his signature aggressive performances in the next few matches against Pakistan and England.
Throughout 2006 MS Dhoni was on the rise as he soon replaced Ricky Ponting and held the spot of the number 1 batsman in the ICC ODI rankings for a brief stint. With the 2007 Cricket World Cup looming ever so close, the near future looked bright for India and for Dhoni as the team continued to deliver results throughout the preparations. In an unfortunate turn of events however, and to the disappointment of several millions of cricket fans across the nation, India was knocked out of the most prestigious tournament in the group stage itself. As fate would have it, Dhoni was dismissed for a duck twice in losses against both Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, registering a total of just 29 runs in the cup, marking one of his most disappointing campaigns in his career.
Much like the captain we know of today, Dhoni ensured no delay in putting his World Cup disappointment behind him. He was declared Man of the Series after delivering high for India against Bangladesh and also scored a total of 174 in 3 games in the Afro-Asia Cup, bettering himself at every step.
And it was step by step that a new chapter was about to begin in the yet to be glittering career of Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni becomes Captain of India: The Beginning of a New Era
Rahul Dravid stepped down as the captain of India after a frustrating final few matches in 2007, leaving a huge hole in the wall (pun intended) to be cemented. Despite boasting of a star studded line up in Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and Virender Sehwag and VVS Laxman the India finally found its captain in their emerging star Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Dhoni was appointed as captain after being recommended by Tendulkar to Sharad Pawar for the post. India and particularly the new captain faced a massive challenge in the inaugural ICC World Twenty20 Cup in South Africa in the same year. Dhoni’s captaincy however, had a huge immediate impact on the team as he guided the team throughout the tournament, emerging victorious against rivals Pakistan in the final in a gripping match which went right to the last over. India became the first team ever to win the ICC World Twenty20 by 6 runs. MS Dhoni’s magic had begun to work.
Having instilled a sense of confidence in both himself as well as in the team, Dhoni just after the tournament became the ODI captain of India and soon after that, the captain of the Indian Test cricket team following the retirement of Anil Kumble in 2008. What followed was a spectacular career with no lack of silverware. An immediate effect was the retention of the Border-Gavaskar trophy against Australia.
2009 is considered to be one of the best years under Dhoni’s reign. While he was maintained the top spot in ICC ODI Batmsan rankings for a good few months India also became the number one Test cricket team by the end of the year. Contributing to that feat was India’s score of 726-9(dec) in their Test series against Sri Lanka, the highest Test total registered by the Indian team ever. India won the series 2-0 which also witnessed two centuries from Dhoni. He ended the year as the highest ODI scorer of the year with a total of 1198 runs in 24 innings played. With bright prospects and a fantastic run of form India again looked formidable yet again as their opportunity for redemption, the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup kept edging closer.
Under Dhoni’s captaincy, India eased their way through the group stages, finishing second behind South Africa. Famously defeating Australia in the quarter finals and Pakistan in Mohali in the semi finals, India rolled down the red carpet for Sri Lanka at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai for the first ICC Cricket World Cup final to be played between two Asian teams. Under a lot of pressure at the greatest stage in cricket and chasing a huge 274 by Sri Lanka, Dhoni promoted himself up the batting order and ended the match with poise as he hit a six to bring the World Cup home after 28 years, sending the entire nation into a frenzy! India had finally done it. India had become the first team to win the World Cup on home soil. Dhoni had achieved what no one else could have done. With praise being heaped upon “Captain Cool” from every corner of the earth, MS Dhoni had become the most successful captain India had ever seen.
Post World Cup Success
With the World Cup under his grasp, Dhoni had ensured his place in the history books. However, that was not where he would stop. With the retirement of senior players including Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid and the emergence of younger talent, Dhoni had become the face of The New India.
Dhoni overtook Sourav Ganguly as the most successful Test cricket captain of India in March 2013, a feat acknowledged by Ganguly himself. The same year he also led India to victory in the ICC Champions’ Trophy, something which for him had become more of a habit. With an another piece of silverware added to his collection he set another record of becoming the first skipper to have won all the major ICC trophies.
MS Dhoni: The Best Captain India has ever seen?
While it wouldn’t be fair to say that India’s recent run of international success is completely attributed to Mahendra Singh Dhoni, it wouldn’t be wrong either to state that the scenario could have been much different were it not for our cool and suave skipper. What is it then, that has set him apart from our country’s list of cricketing legends who just like him have received international fame? What is it about him that has led him to achieve almost all that he has been faced with? Let us take a look.
- First things first. If you have been a regular follower of Dhoni and his regime you wouldn’t disagree that Dhoni has come across in the cricketing world as a man of extraordinary talent. From his signature helicopter shot to his fantastic judgment of accumulating runs, his is a skill not to be found just anywhere.
- Adding to that is the player’s splendid ability to rise through any obstacle and reach the top. It is well known by now that the Dhoni does not crack under pressure. This is perhaps the most significant attribute about Dhoni that has helped him and the team make their way through almost anything that they’ve been faced with. It is for this reason that he has been nicknamed by the public as “captain cool”. Panic would be the last word you would ever associate the skipper with.
- Dhoni is also not afraid to take risks, even during the most crucial moments in the game, an attribute highly associated with success. While it has worked in his favour on many occasions, such as when he brought on Joginder Sharma to bowl the final over in the Twenty20 final, it has also backfired in some instances. You won’t always be right, and Dhoni seems have a fair grasp of that.
- You can never predict his style of play or what he will do next. His methods are often experimental, more often than not fetching more than just a fair result. His game is often described as unorthodox consisting of moves out of the blue.
- Finally, a debatable point yet one that has contributed significantly to his success is Dhoni’s instinctive style of play. While this may be associated more with chance, Dhoni for sure seems to have lady luck on his side, too regularly to label it just a coincidence.
With so much praise on one side, Dhoni has also not been new to facing criticisms. At times, as mentioned above, he has been widely claimed to have been lucky, or to phrase it better, known to have an extraordinary gut instinct. While that may be debatable, what is true for sure is the fact that his unusual ploys, at times surprising the entire crowd have led to a fair amount of success for the team. Also at times claimed to not be a great tactician he also sometimes seen as a man who leads by intuition and not one who takes decisions by taking into consideration the occurrences on the field. Whatever be said about his methods, there’s no arguing with the results as MS Dhoni carries on to be the most admired skipper of the Indian team, always portraying the team as formidable foes for any kind of opposition.
While Dhoni has never failed to impress on the field, it is his calm and welcoming personality off the pitch that has won him so many admirers all across the world. Even at the time Mahi worked for the Indian Railways to support his family, his colleagues saw him as an honest and a straightforward person. His teachers and all of his coaches remember him as a sincere and down to earth pupil, and it may be his hold on these qualities till today that has fetched him such an international acclaim as a fantastic person to work with. When Dhoni became the captain of India in 2007, he had the responsibility to lead a team with many stars much senior to him in terms of both games and managerial experience, but he never faced any difficulty in that regard. Even the players, who had gotten to know him well by then were more than just willing to have him lead the team. A whole generation of a cricket team changed in his reign as captain with many youngsters filling in the gaps in the squad. Dhoni, however, with his cool personality and temperament has remained as effective as ever.
Dhoni has taught valuable lessons in the managerial domain as well, ones that under no circumstances can be overlooked.
- Its is said that a manager is no better than his team. While Dhoni’s individual records could easily counter this statement he realises the importance of this saying in its true sense. Dhoni’s effective leadership owes to the fact that he is a total team player, always putting the needs of others before himself, thus helping each and every player under him flourish to his fullest.
- As a result of Dhoni being able to handle pressure effectively, with his presence in the squad the team always welcomes pressure.In fact, some of their best performances have surfaced chasing huge scores, such as the 2011 World Cup Final.
- One of the most important managerial traits of MS Dhoni has been the ability to step up to the occasion and take charge whenever needed. What impresses one even further is him taking the entire blame whenever the team performs poorly and having every player take part in the celebrations when they perform well.
- In addition to being a fantastic player on the pitch, the skipper is known to have a high level of emotional intelligence. His ability to remain calm even in the most difficult circumstances on the pitch ensures that the players look up to him and that the confidence of the team remains intact, making them the formidable foes that they are.
- Finally, an effective leader is one who can keep things simple. The exact same can be said of Dhoni. Rarely does he ponder over statistics, believing that the sport is simple and does not require much complication. Taking things as and when they present themselves, the Captain Cool keeps it effective with team meetings not even lasting 10 minutes.
It is his rich personality and the wonders that it has worked for him that there is an upcoming biopic based on Dhoni’s life directed by Neeraj Pandey and starring Sushant Singh Rajput as MS Dhoni. His leadership skills have often been praised by cricketing geniuses around the world time and time again. His ability to remain clam, his effective communication among the team and his individual talent have often been hailed. The same message has been sent across to anyone who has dared to question him or team India: Dhoni simply cannot be beaten, as captain or as player.
Current Scenario and the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015
Currently, leading the Indian team in their bid to retain the World Cup, Dhoni has been in a fiery form repeatedly gathering praise for India’s unbeaten run in the World Cup. Having stormed through the group stages with important wins against Pakistan and South Africa India have intimidated and defeated anyone and everyone that have stood in their path. With India’s most recent victory against Bangladesh in the quarter finals of the tournament Dhoni marked his 100th ODI win as captain of the Indian team. With the team delivering unexpected performances and having bowled out their opponents in each of the matches so far Dhoni has answered his critics who have claimed he has lost his grip on the team after his unexpected retirement from Test cricket.
India face the mighty Australia in the much awaited semi finals of the World Cup up next. With the entire world watching, all eyes will be on Mahi to guide the the young albeit powerful team to glory yet again. Win or no win, World Cup or no World Cup, what we know for sure is that Dhoni remains irrepressible and irreplaceable as the captain of India. Jai Hind!