Dhoni had captained India in 199 ODIs before, with him leading the team to victories on 110 occasions. His reign as ODI captain also included triumphs at the 2011 ICC World Cup and the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy. Additionally, he also led India to the title at the inaugural ICC World T20 in 2007 while also helping India achieve the numero uno status in the Test rankings.
MS Dhoni has been known throughout his career for his quick thinking, his ability to be composed at all times and to back his players even when the going got tough. These attributes came to the fore while he was marshalling his troops as well. He had a hand in resurrecting a number of players’ careers while also igniting a few careers.
On the occasion of his 200th ODI as captain of the Indian team, we will take a walk down memory lane and look back at some of his greatest decisions in international cricket, across all formats.
Without further ado, here are MS Dhoni – The Captain’s greatest masterstrokes:
#5 Persisting with Joginder Sharma for the last over in the World T20 final
India and Pakistan locked horns at the Wanderers in the final of the 2007 ICC World T20. The match was delicately poised heading into the final over, where Pakistan needed 13 runs to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
Dhoni, the Indian captain had the option of bowling the experienced Harbhajan or persist with the relatively unknown Joginder. The man from Ranchi opted for the latter and the rest is history.
Despite beginning the over nervously, Joginder brought all his domestic experience into play and accounted for the wicket of the in-form Misbah Ul Haq. Dhoni had taken a huge gamble by choosing the seamer from Haryana over Harbhajan but eventually, it worked a treat. Dhoni was always a man who listened to his hunch very often and came up with left-field decisions which left the opposition surprised. Though there was always a method to his madness, Dhoni sometimes made the most ludicrous of moves work.
The trust shown by Dhoni in Joginder helped India clinch victory from the jaws of defeat and catapulted the Indian captain into the limelight. In his very first tournament as captain, Dhoni had signalled that he possessed an uncanny knack of turning things around from the most hopeless of situations. Thus, it ranks as his 5th greatest decision ever.
#4 The idea to utilise Yuvraj as an all-rounder at the 2011 World Cup
Yuvraj Singh had a troubled time leading up to the 2011 World Cup. The left-hander, who had played a major role in India’s World T20 triumph, was struggling to find fluency with the bat. Thus, his place in the team for the 2011 World Cup came under the scanner.
Dhoni, however, knew that he couldn’t afford to drop Yuvraj from his XI for the World Cup, considering the latter’s ability to turn up in the big games. Hence, Dhoni started giving Yuvraj confidence as a bowler and cultivated him to become the fifth bowler for the team. Yuvraj ended the World Cup as the Player of the Tournament and shone with both bat and ball.
Initially, he pulled his weight courtesy his accurate left-arm spin. However, towards the business end, he started chalking up the ‘big’ innings.
He masterfully dismantled Australia in the quarterfinals, when the team looked in disarray. India’s World Cup could’ve panned out very differently had Yuvraj not been a part of it.
Though the southpaw deserves enormous credit for coming up with the goods, the vision showcased by Dhoni deserves a mention as well. Thus, it makes our list at No. 4
#3 Promoting Rohit Sharma to open in the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy
Rohit Sharma had a stop-start career till he was pushed to open the batting alongside Shikhar Dhawan. Since his move to the top of the order, the elegant right-hander has averaged above 50 and recently completed 7000 runs in ODIs.
The Mumbaikar has always been a notoriously slow starter but with him opening the batting, he was afforded the time to make up for the slow start. While opening the batting, he has scored 3 double centuries in ODIs, which included a mammoth 264 against Sri Lanka.
With 19 ODI hundreds to his name, the signs are that Rohit is finally harnessing his enormous potential. For a player who had frustrated many a fan in his initial years, he is now one of the first names on the fans’ lips. Rohit deserves credit for having grabbed his opportunity with both hands.
However, Dhoni’s foresight to envision such a transformation must also be given its due. The Indian captain, with this decision, helped Rohit embark on an upward curve, a curve which has helped him scale many peaks.
Had Dhoni not instilled him with the confidence to open the batting, Rohit could well have been another case of ‘what could have been’. Therefore, this decision of MS ranks at No.3
#2 Keeping faith in Virat Kohli before the Adelaide test in 2012
In 2011-12, India toured Australia for a four-match series. The 2011-12 season hadn’t been a fruitful season for the Men in Blue as they had been whitewashed 4-0 in England earlier. With India losing its first three games on the tour Down Under, the pressure was mounting on the team and its captain, MS Dhoni.
Amidst all the tension, MS kept his calm and came up with one of his masterstrokes. Kohli had a quiet series until the final test and there were several people calling for his head. Many believed that Kohli had exhausted his opportunities and that Rohit Sharma deserved his time in the sun. Dhoni, however, did not bow down to the pressure and he persisted with Kohli. The current Indian captain responded with a magnificent ton at Adelaide where he displayed exemplary grit and determination.
Kohli’s test career could’ve been in jeopardy had he been dropped but his captain’s confidence combined with his precocious talent ensured that it didn’t happen. At present, Kohli is undisputedly the best batsman across all formats. But things could’ve panned out so differently had Kohli been consigned to the side-line in Adelaide in 2012.
Credit must be given to the captain where it is due and hence this masterstroke of MS makes it to our list at No.2.
#1 Promoting himself in the 2011 World Cup final
India seemed destined to win the 2011 World Cup on home soil against Sri Lanka. However, things didn’t go to plan as Mahela Jayawardene powered Sri Lanka to a competitive 275 before Malinga got rid of the Indian openers.
Kohli and Gambhir steadied the ship for a while before Kohli was caught spectacularly by Dilshan. With the whole crowd waiting in anticipation for the man of the tournament, Yuvraj to walk out, Dhoni rolled up his sleeves and entered the battleground to stamp his authority. Dhoni ended up playing a magical knock of 91* and finished the match with a trademark lofted shot over long-on.
Though MS had promoted himself on many an occasion before, the courage to do it on the biggest stage made it special.
Though there have been many versions by different people with regards to who actually took the decision, the confidence of MS to give it the green light was enough in itself.
The decision helped the team quench the nation’s thirst for a World Cup and etched the team into Indian cricketing folklore. Hence, it ranks as the best decision ever made by MS as Indian captain.