To say that Mahendra Singh Dhoni transformed the face of Indian cricket would be an understatement. Why because this man almost single-handedly led India to multiple world titles in a matter of only five years. First the T20 world cup in 2007, then number one test ranking in 2009 and ultimately the 50-over world cup in 2011. On Independence Day, Dhoni may have retired from all the forms of international cricket but his on-field charisma has many lessons to teach…especially to the younger generation.
Whether in international cricket or in the IPL, Dhoni’s captaincy has been admired by many greats of the game such as Gavaskar, Muralitharan and Ganguly. Other cricketers like Dhawan, Kohli and Tendulkar who have played under Dhoni have said that he’s the best Indian captain of all time.
Dhoni was handed over the captaincy role in 2007 and he showed by winning the maiden T20 world cup that he meant business as a captain. With a combination of youngsters and legends, Dhoni made a formidable team which climbed the top of test rankings in 2009.
Dhoni’s IPL side Chennai Super Kings went on to win 2010 season and in the next year, India won the cricket world cup by beating Sri Lanka in the finals. But the story ends not here…under Dhoni’s captaincy India also emerged victorious in the 2013 Champions Trophy.
What made Dhoni such an outstanding leader? It is probably his ability to work with everyone on equal terms. Also, the confidence he put in his players made them show a strong commitment to the game. From 2007 50-over world cup debacle, India kept on winning under Dhoni.
At the start of his career, Dhoni came to bat among the top three. But 2007 onwards, when Dhoni himself was made the captain, he realized that the team’s middle and lower orders were weak so he stepped down the order.
He gave repeated chances to youngsters like Shikhar, Rohit and Kohli who went on to become match winning players themselves. Had Dhoni dropped them early on, we wouldn’t have had a strong opening stand from Dhawan-Rohit and a player like Virat in the middle.
Dhoni also sacrificed his dear captaincy when he understood that Virat was ready to fill in his shoes. A captain is immune from being dropped off the team but to a great leader like Dhoni this was less important than his nation winning.
3. Risk Taking
Dhoni used to taked risks as a captain but all of which were calculated risks. For example, in the final against Pakistan in 2007 T20 world cup, Dhoni could have bowled the last over by Harbhajan Singh, a more experienced bowler than Joginder Sharma.
But since Misbah was too good against the spinners, Dhoni went along with a less experienced medium-pacer Joginder Sharma instead. Dhoni set the field up in such a manner that when Sharma bowled wide on the leg stump and Misbah went for a scoop, the ball landed in Sreesanth’s hands.
Many such calculated risks have been taken by captain Dhoni and rightly so. In a sport, one has to take risks, in order to win the game. A great leader like Dhoni believes not only in his own decision making but also in his player’s skill to deliver what’s required.
Throughout his career, Dhoni has remained mostly calm and humble on or off the field. Smile was a part of his outfit. Even players from Pakistan including Shoaib Akhtar, Sarfraz Khan and Saqlain Mushtaq admire Dhoni for his modesty.
Dhoni once helped a Pakistani fan get ticket to India-Pakistan match. This fan happened to be a restaurant owner in Chicago who had travelled all the way from America to Mohali to enjoy the live game. Amid ongoing political tensions, he was not sold the ticket, but Dhoni ensured ‘Chacha’ the ticket would be his.
They developed a friendship over the years.
In a career spanning for over 15 years, not even once do we spot an iota of arrogance in Dhoni. He was a true patriot but who maintained love and respect for everyone despite their nationality. This is the reason why Dhoni has millions of fans around the world.
5. Handling Pressure
While other players like Kohli and Rohit easily lose track under pressure, Dhoni, on the other hand, has maintained for most his career, a calm personality on the field. This is why media have dubbed him Captain Cool.
Everyone remembers the game against Bangladesh in 2016 T20 world cup when they had almost won the game but already celebrating. Whole of Indian side had already lost any hope of winning. But Dhoni went up to a young Pandya and over the next few deliveries, nothing less than a miracle transpired!
There was another special thing about Dhoni…That he won without boasting and lost without making excuses. He handled not only the on-field game pressure but also the incoming pressure from the live and emotional Indian crowd, from media people who constantly speculated over his relationship with senior players. Dhoni kept his grace throughout.
6. Positive Attitude
Dhoni has said multiple times how he believes in the process rather than obtaining the result. He was once asked what is his biggest learning from cricket. Dhoni replied, ever so candidly, that as a captain, he would not complain much if the team gave 100% on the field, no matter what the result, because at the end of the game, one has always to lose, Dhoni added.
In the IPL, which is a cutthroat competition involving eight teams with talented domestic and international players, Dhoni’s side Chennai Super Kings has lifted the title thrice, and is one of the most successful teams. This has been so because of Dhoni’s winning mentality which spreads across the CSK dressing room. He does not lose hope until the end.
“I am on national duty…Everything else can wait,” said new father Dhoni on the birth of his daughter Ziva. He was on tour of Australia and could have flown to India midway. But to Dhoni, sport is not just an activity of leisure, it is a platform to represent his country, which he uses well.
But when he’s with family, he stays away from the clutches of social media. He posts rarely on Instagram or Twitter. This shows that he is honest to both professional as well as to personal life. He has shown over the years how the two can be balanced and excelled at.
Dhoni may have retired from international cricket but we will see him play in the IPL. Yet, millions of his fans wanted to see him in the blue jersey for a final time. Regardless, he will remain one of the greatest players in Indian cricketing history and the most successful Indian captain of all time. From a small town in Jharkhand to the top of world cricket, what a journey his has been!