Mahendra Singh Dhoni is one of the greatest captains to have played the sport and is one of the finest wicket-keepers too. Right from his batting, to his keeping, everything was always unorthodox and this extended to his captaincy as well.
The reason that Dhoni was so successful was because of his calm temperament and ability to make brilliant decisions in the middle when the going got tough. Here is a look of some of the best decisions taken by Dhoni as India captain:
1. “Negative” tactics in Nagpur Test, 2008
India were leading 1-0 in the three match test series against the Aussies back in 2008. India batted first and put a formidable 441 runs. Australia were on a comfortable 189-2 in just 49 overs in the second innings, well on course to touch India’s total. Dhoni then instructed his bowlers to bowl outside off-stump and negate the attacking threat of the batsman.
Many commentators and purists berated the “negative” tactics of Dhoni and blasted him for playing for the draw. Australia however, imploded and got out for just 356 runs. Then, India suddenly counter-attacked with Sehwag hitting 92 and Dhoni getting to a quick half century to set an improbable target of 382. India ended up winning 172 runs and everyone got a glimpse of something special by Dhoni in only his third Test as Indian captain.
2. Taking one glove off at World T20 in 2016
In the World T20 match against Bangladesh, the pressure was on India when the opposition needed 2 runs off 3 balls at Bangalore. The match was considered done by many and fans had started leaving the stadium.
With a set Mushfiqur Rahim, a Bangladesh victory was inevitable. However, he was surprised by a sudden full toss and got caught out. The batsman after him too was out in the next ball, leaving the game poised at 2 runs off 1 ball.
After a lengthy discussion with the bowler, Dhoni removed his glove and took guard behind the stump. Then, as per his instruction, Hardik Pandya bowled a short one and the tail-ender wasn’t able to connect. The ball went into Dhoni’s hands and he sprinted and knocked the bails off the stump before the non-striker could steal a run. India had pulled off the improbable and Dhoni once again finished the game in style.
3. Bowling Ishant in Champions Trophy final, 2013
Ishant Sharma was battered all over the ground during the Champions Trophy final in England back in 2013. Chasing a meager 129, England were well on course to reach their target, needing just 28 off 18 with 6 wickets in hand.
Dhoni then handed the ball to Ishant, a bowler who had gone for 28 runs in his three overs. A risky decision, Ishant repaid the faith in him and picked two wickets in quick succession. The tables had turned and the opposition were now under pressure. India held their nerve and Ravichandran Ashwin bowled an economical final over to hand India the Champions Trophy.
4. Giving Joginder Sharma the final over, WT20 Final, 2008
In Dhoni’s first ever tournament, he led a team of relative unknowns to the World T20 Final against traditional rivals, Pakistan. India batted first and hit 157. Pakistan were reeling until Misbah Ul Haq stood up to propel Pakistan to just 6 runs off the target.
Everyone expected Dhoni to hand the ball to one of his more experienced campaigners but he gave it to Joginder Sharma, a bowler who was not having a great tournament until then. He told Sharma to bowl as wide as possible. Despite being hit for a 6, Sharma stuck to Dhoni’s plan and Misbah scooped one to short fine leg and India won the maiden World T20 trophy and Dhoni began his legacy.
5. Promoting himself up the order, World Cup Final, 2011
The one decision that made Dhoni a bonafide legend”: Promoting himself up the order in the World Cup Final versus Sri Lanka in 2011. The Lankans put up a formidable 274 on the board – a score no one had ever chased in a final and India found themselves reeling at 114-3.
Everyone expected the in-form Yuvraj Singh who was having a fantastic tournament (He went on to win best player) to come and take strike. Instead, it was Dhoni who headed out. Dhoni had an average tournament up until then and the whole world was surprised. He patched a superb partnership with the brilliant Gautam Gambhir, who perished at an agonizing 97 runs – three runs short of a memorable century.
Dhoni then proved to be one of the best finishers in the game and batted with Yuvraj Singh till the end. He finished the game with a huge six that will forever remain in the memory of Indian cricket fans and put him down as one of the most unorthodox captains to have played the game.
By Rohit Nair