Mahendra Singh Dhoni was one of the sharpest brains in cricket that India ever produced. It was not only for his benign nature towards other cricketers and his herculean calm, but his foresight of the game and a perfect game reading that made him a fine captain for India.
It was under his leadership that India produced gold in the two world cups, one in the shorter format of the game and the other one being shortest. We will look at five decisions from the Indian captain that made him a hero in the world’s grandest stages.
1. Using Joginder Sharma in the final over in T20 World Cup
As Misbah threatened to take the game away from India, Dhoni introduced Joginder Sharma in the final over in a bid to defend 13 runs, a decision that would have baffled even the best of cricketing minds.
Sharma started with an extravagant wide and followed it up with a dot ball in the exact same trajectory. The third delivery of the over was dispatched out of the park by Misbah, bringing the equation down to 6 runs from 4 balls.
The next ball was in the same spot, tempting Misbah to swing his bat, but he switched himself to execute a sweeping flick over his head and in the process ended up holing to Sreesanth.
Probably it was a stroke of luck for the Indians but the fact what was notable was Sharma’s marvellous change of pace that didn’t allow Misbah to get the coveted distance that he would have liked on his shot. There was a reason, after all, Dhoni introduced Joginder to the attack.
2. Introducing Zaheer Khan to break the partnership of Ian Bell and Sir Andrew Strauss in the 2011 World Cup match
It was probably the best match of the tournament which saw both the teams performing at their phenomenal best with the bat.
Riding in Tendulkar’s century and breezy cameos from Gambhir, Tendulkar and Dhoni, India posted a mammoth total of 338.
England crafted a string response as they were off to a flyer, thanks to Pietersen and Strauss. Despite Pietersen and Jonathan Trott getting removed, Strauss continued the fight with Ian Bell. The duo put on a stand of 170 runs for the 3rd wicket which set England well in course of a victory, and all of it with two set batsmen at the crease.
This was the moment when Dhoni introduced Zaheer Khan to the attack, not really willing to wait any further for the quota of the fast bowler to be finished later. It was also the beginning of batting powerplay.
After conceding just a single off the first three deliveries, it was a slower ball from Zak that sparked wild celebrations in the stand for India. Bell in an attempt to swing Zaheer out of the park, nicked a thick edge into the safe arms of Kohli.
What followed in the ensuing delivery derailed England completely as it was Andrew Strauss to depart next with an absolute ripper from Zaheer. A perfectly executed inswinging yorker caught Strauss stunned and the ball nicked his boots to get him dismissed LBW.
This was India’s coming back to the match. In the next over of Zaheer, he picked up another wicket as Zak deracinated the stumps of Paul Collingwood with another brilliant mix of pace.
Though Khan paved the way of an exquisite Indian comeback, the final line couldn’t be drawn as Chawla and Munaf spilt a lot of runs, in the end, making it a tie.
3. Promoting himself higher up the order in the 2011 final
As India was reeling from an early collapse that saw them losing Sehwag, Tendulkar and Kohli, Dhoni and Gambhir took up the job of the initial repairs.
It was supposed to be Yuvraj coming in at number four but given the capricious spell of Muralitharan running wild in the middle, the Indian skipper wanted to deal it himself.
He very successfully played out the difficult part of the innings navigating through trying circumstances and the magnificence of Sri Lankan bowling, thereby paving India’s way to safety.
By the time, Gambhir was dismissed, India could sniff a victory and Yuvraj accelerated the pace of the Indian innings.
It was Dhoni who smashed the final blow ending a 28-year long wait for India to lift their second World Cup trophy.
4. Using spinners to get through the bowl-out against Pakistan
As India stepped up for the first bowl-out in international cricket after a remarkable tie in their 2007 T-20 World Cup opener, Dhoni brought Uthappa, Sehwag and Harbhajan to do the job, much to the contrary of vox populi, that pacers can hit the stumps more frequently.
Dhoni himself supervised the practice of the bowlers involved in the bowl-out and created an absolutely care-free ambience for them to aim at the stumps.
All three of the Indian bowlers struck timber while none of Pakistan’s fast bowlers could get close to the target. It was an ingenious decision from India’s captain that gave a new way of winning bowl-outs to the world.
5. Using Yuvraj as a full-time bowler in the 2011 World Cup
Everyone expected Yuvraj to be a batting hero of the tournament, which he undoubtedly was, but what he wasn’t was a proper bowling all-rounder. Despite being used as a part-time spinner previously, Dhoni thought of him as a lethal spinning option in the middle.
Yuvi bowled 75 overs in the World Cup, conceding 377 runs at a decent economy rate of 5.01, claiming 15 wickets which is more than the regular Indian bowlers.
Breaking crucial partnerships in the games, he provided a massive option to Dhoni to use another player in order to bolster India’s batting ranks.