In the late 90s and during Greg Chappell's coaching era, when heads were tumbling through the Indian team's turmoil, it seems all that Mahendra Singh Dhoni did was chalk out a plan on how things would change for the better. When granted the opportunity to lead, he showed himself ready and emerged as the solution to most of India's problems, enough to finally fulfill expectations of a long-suffering crowd of supporters.
An Adam Gilchrist-inspired Dhoni was drafted in 2004 to solve India's wicketkeeper-batsman crisis following the failure of the Rahul Dravid experiment. His start was anything but legendary - getting out for a duck. It was his fifth outing at home against Pakistan in 2005, that a blistering 148 which set up India for a win, making everyone sit up and take notice. A mammoth 183 to chase a high Sri Lankan total later in the year reiterated his value. By the end of 2005, Dhoni donned the all-whites to earn a Test cap against Sri Lanka, holding both ODI and Test spots ever since. In the inaugural ICC World Twenty20 that followed, Dhoni was chosen to lead a young Indian side. Under his guidance, the team quickly turned disappointment to joy by lifting the coveted trophy, to the surprise of both fans and detractors. His ability to excel in leadership was quickly recognized and within a year, he was appointed as the Indian skipper in all forms of the game.
Under Dhoni's captaincy, India posted successful Test series victories home and away against England (2008), New Zealand (2009) and Sri Lanka (2009). Throughout his first five years as a Test player, India had lost only two away series, a record which helped them top the Test rankings. The biggest accomplishment of his career came in 2011 when he powered Team India to a remarkable World Cup victory with his extraordinary leadership skills that proved his worth as a successful captain. It was after 28 long years that India won the Cup, thanks to a bunch of hardworking and enthusiastic cricketers led by a young and exceptionally astute skipper. He played a captain's innings in the final against Sri Lanka, where his brilliant knock of an unbeaten 91 sealed
the most memorable victory for his team and country.
Dhoni’s next adventures were probably his toughest as a skipper. Consecutive tours to England and Australia in 2011/12 were complete disasters as the team was whitewashed 4-0 both times. Success in Tests continued to evade Dhoni even as he relished the shorter formats. A home series loss to England the following year put question marks on Dhoni’s leadership in the longest format of the game but he did have his way in 2013 when he inflicted on a touring Australian team, a 4-0 whitewash, making him the first captain in a long time to do so. That was followed by winning the ICC Champions Trophy in 2013 making him the only skipper to hold all the major ICC events, the T20 WC, the 50-over WC and the Champions Trophy.
The ghosts of 2011 returned to haunt him back in 2014 on India’s tour to England and despite a historic win at Lord’s, India went on to lose 3-1 to England further denting his overseas Test record. On 30th December 2014, having saved the third Test for India against Australia at the MCG, Dhoni announced his retirement from Tests with immediate effect citing too much strain as a captain as the reason, handing over the mantle to Virat Kohli for the fourth and final Test match after losing another series Down Under. He will continue to lead India in the shorter formats.
The 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup proved why he has been such a tremendous captain in ODIs. Having failed to win a single game in the Tests in Australia and even the tri-series, the Indian team had a magnificent run in the mega event winning all their league games and even the quarters, only to fall short against a champion Aussie side in the semis. They were on a 11-match winning streak in World Cups, broken only by that magnificent Clarke-led team.
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