Mahendra Singh Dhoni caught national attention when he excelled in a limited-overs triangular tournament involving A teams of India, Pakistan, and Kenya. The man with the long hair was smashing it to all parts of the ground, we all had a feeling that we might finally have our own Adam Gilchrist.
How it all started for MS Dhoni:
The Indian selectors made the call to pick Dhoni for a series against Bangladesh in 2004. The debut series was bumpy and having failed in the first match against arch-rivals Pakistan, his career was on the line. Thankfully in his 5th game, Vizag happened (148 out of 123 balls). He cemented his place in the ODI squad and later in the year the Jaipur ODI happened (183 not out vs Sri Lanka).
Lahore and Karachi (both amazing knocks while chasing against Pakistan) were matches way beyond anyone’s league but Dhoni stood tall. Dhoni had got inadvertent fans, then Pakistan President Mr. Musharraf had a special request asking MS not to cut his long locks. The long hair was here to stay, it had to become a trend and more importantly, Dhoni was to stay.
India’s number 1 ranked ODI batsman and World Cup-winning captain:
He belonged at the top level. Not many people might be aware of the fact that Dhoni became No.1 ranked ODI Batsman within his first 42 matches. People expected the world from MS Dhoni when he geared up for his first 50 overs Cricket World Cup in 2007, but he flattered to deceive scoring 2 ducks in 3 games, and India were to be knocked out in the league stage itself. But he compensated for that by leading India to a maiden T20 World Cup Win in South Africa(Sep 2007), he even led India to a Historic Maiden ODI Triumph in Australia (Feb 2008), he was the captain when India topped the Test rankings for the first time in Dec 2009.
Everybody knows what happened on 2nd April 2011 at Mumbai, a captain woefully out of form in the entire tournament promoted himself up the order ahead of Yuvraj Singh, who by then was already voted the player of the World Cup. A very interesting point here to note is: exactly 4 years ago (2007 World Cup) Dhoni struggled to pick Muralitharan and was trapped plumb in front. But now he was to blunt the Murali-factor walking ahead of Yuvraj Singh. Dhoni made the impossible possible, 28 long years, World Cup being played at home, 22 years of Sachin Tendulkar wanting to lift the trophy, billion dreams, all came true on that magical night, with that majestic six which has tattoed its way in the mind of millions of Indian cricket fans.
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The gambler who won it all:
Dhoni for a large part of his career was known as the man with the Midas Touch, whether it was handing the last over to Joginder Sharma in 2007 ICC T20 World Cup or bringing Ishant Sharma back into the attack in the 2013 Champions Trophy Final (no cricketing logic whatsoever), he always stuck by his instincts, gambler instincts rather. He will surely go down as one of the most successful captains ever, as he is the only one to have won everything under the sun. Dhoni was a finisher par excellence, a first-rate wicket-keeper.
He did all this without care for conventional wisdom or technique, reputations are damned. Dhoni believed what he did was in the best interests of the team always, and we as a nation firmly believed him too. He strongly backed the players, he believed in. Be it Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Ashwin, Raina, Jadeja, and recently Kedar Jadhav, Dhoni’s influence on the team has always been humongous.
The glorious fall of MS Dhoni:
Post the 2015 World Cup and after having quit captaincy from all forms of the game, Dhoni’s form and batting prowess were on a decline, his finishing skills were on the wane. He had one of the slowest strike rates when it came to starting the innings in the period between 2015-19. His famed last over finishes were resulting in losses for India with the like of Kagiso Rabada and Dwayne Bravo getting the better of him having to defend single-digit scores in the last over.
Dhoni once failed to take India home against the West Indies in an ODI match in 2017 after having to just chase a score under 190. He scored the slowest ODI fifty for India (50 off 114 balls) and got out in the last over, leaving the fans in shock. He repeated the same feat when India were chasing a total well above 300 against England at Lords in 2018 but Dhoni scored a painstaking 59 ball 37. Dhoni was booed by the Indian crowd for the first time in ages.
Dhoni copped a lot of criticism in the World Cup 2019 too when he along with Jadhav played excruciatingly slow innings while chasing 340 odd total against England. But the main match which divided the audience alike was his innings against New Zealand in the semi-final. He scored a 50 off 71 balls but failed to take India over the line. It was the last time when Dhoni represented the nation and it wasn’t how it was supposed to end. Dhoni was a hero but he lived long enough for him to become the villain.