Several Indian cricket captains have arrived, led and left, but only a handful have left an impact over a period of time. MS Dhoni's decision to step down as the limited-overs captain of the Indian team, having already retired from Tests, brought an end to a an era in the nation's cricket history.
Dhoni's decision, which was made barely a couple of days before the national selectors were to convene to select India's squad for the ODIs and T20Is against England, caught the cricket fraternity by surprise, much like he did with his Test retirement in the middle of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in 2014-15.
Dhoni's exit as captain, however, was considered just a matter of time. With Virat Kohli excelling as test captain, the pressure had been mounting on selectors to put the Delhi player in charge across all formats.
Since taking charge in 2007, Dhoni captained India in 199 one-dayers, winning 110 and losing 74. He also skippered India in 72 Twenty20 Internationals, with 41 wins and 28 losses.
Let us now take a look at some of India's top victories across formats under the Ranchi lad's leadership, arranged in chronological order:
1. India vs Pakistan, ICC World T20 final, 2007: The victory that flagged off Dhoni's legacy of being the 'Captain Cool' that he turned out to be. After Gautam Gambhir's flamboyant 75 propelled India to a competitive 157/5, Pakistan kept losing wickets at regular intervals, though their asking rate was never going beyond control.
In the end, it boiled down to Pakistan needing 13 off the last over, with Misbah-ul-Haq on strike. Dhoni made the historic decision of handing Joginder Sharma the ball for the over, which eventually reaped rich dividends he induced Misbah into playing a scoop towards fine-leg, only to get caught by S Sreesanth. India won a heartstopper of a match by five runs, and managed to bury ghosts of the first-round exit from the 50-over World Cup earlier that year.
2. India vs Australia, 2nd final, CB tri-series 2008: Following success in the inaugural ICC World T20, Dhoni's next major victory was in the 'Best-of-three' finals of the Commonwealth Bank Triangular Series (featuring Sri Lanka as the third team).
With Sachin Tendulkar leading the chase spectacularly with a magnificent ton in the first final, India needed one more win to clinch the series in their favour. The second finale saw Tendulkar, who was in the form of his life, fall short of a consecutive century by nine runs as India finished on 258/9. Praveen Kumar, who got the 'Man of the Match' for his 4/46, caused the early damage before S Sreesanth and Irfan Pathan chipped away to get regular wickets. James Hopes was the last man to go, getting caught by Piyush Chawla at midwicket off Pathan's bowling, as Australia folded up for 249.
Then Australian captain Ricky Ponting had mentioned before the summit clashes that a third final would not be required. It did turn out to be prophetic, although not quite how Punter would have imagined.
3. India vs Pakistan, Asia Cup, 2010: The biggest takeaway from this match was the verbal confrontations between Indian and Pakistani players — notably between Harbhajan Singh and Shoaib Akhtar. Chasing the 268-run target set by Pakistan, the likes of Gautam Gambhir (83) and MS Dhoni (56), set the ball rolling for India. However, it was Harbhajan's calm presence at the crease, which culminated in a winning six off Mohammad Amir's bowling. Turned out to be a successful tournament for India, as they comprehensively defeated Sri Lanka in the final to lift the trophy for the fifth time.
4. India vs Australia, 1st Test, 2010: A match that truly went down the wire, with VVS Laxman producing one of his finest knocks under pressure at Mohali to help India grab the lead in the two-Test series.
Tendulkar fell agonisingly short of a ton in the first innings, as Australia grabbed a 23-run lead after bowling India out for 405. The turnaround for India occurred in the second Australian innings, in which Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma joined forces to share six wickets between them as the visitors were bowled out for 192, setting India a 216-run target.
India were reduced to 124/8 in their chase, with Ben Hilfenhaus and Doug Bollinger wreaking havoc on the top and middle-order. However, Laxman produced a gritty 73 not out, with Ishant Sharma's 31 helping form a 81-run ninth-wicket stand. The one moment from the game that stands out above the rest would perhaps be Laxman losing his cool at Pragyan Ojha during the last-wicket stand, a deviation from his usual demeanour.
5. India vs Sri Lanka, ICC World Cup final, 2011: The most historic of them all, without a shred of a doubt. The victory that ended a 28-year wait. The victory that automatically added the adjective 'legendary' to Dhoni's captaincy. Could even figure among India's greatest victories till date.
Sri Lanka won the toss, and rode on Mahela Jayawardene's unbeaten century to set a competitive 275-run target. India got off to the worst possible start by losing the wickets of Virender Sehwag and Tendulkar early in their innings, before the Indian skipper decided to promote himself to No 5 ahead of Yuvraj Singh, who had been in prime form throughout the tournament.
The two formed a match-saving 109-run stand for the fourth-wicket, with Dhoni remaining unbeaten on 91. His six towards long-on to bring up the victory for the tournament hosts will perhaps remain the favourite cricketing moment for many an Indian fan.
6. India vs Sri Lanka, CB tri-series, 2012: India had been going through a nightmarish period post the 2011 World Cup success, and the tour of Australia was hardly any better. After getting whitewashed in the four-Test series, it was hardly turning out to be any better in the ODI triangular series.
Virat Kohli, who had been enjoying a great season with the bat, led India's chase of the 321-run target in their final group game at Hobart. His unbeaten 133 off 86 deliveries minced the Sri Lankan attack so badly, it made a veteran of Lasith Malinga's (1/96 off 7.4 overs) stature look like a rookie. India eventually cruised their way to a seven-wicket win, although that was of little help in their bid to qualify for the finals.
7. India vs England, ICC Champions Trophy final, 2013: MS Dhoni had won the World T20, the World Cup and led India to the No 1 spot in the ICC Test rankings. All that was left for him to achieve was winning the Champions Trophy.
In a finale at Edgbaston that was curtailed by rain, India set a 125, one that barely lift hopes of their fans. Eoin Morgan and Ravi Bopara helped the Englishmen recover from early jolts, to a position of dominance at one point in the game. That's when Dhoni made yet another of his game-changing decisions by giving Ishant Sharma the crucial 18th over. What resulted in the quick dismissals of two set batsmen, as India went on to record their first-ever victory in the summit clash of the tournament (they had shared honours with Sri Lanka 11 years earlier).
8. India vs England, 2nd Test, 2014: India's second-ever win at the hallowed turf of Lord's was no easy affair by an means. However, the win could not have tasted sweeter, given the struggles they had encountered four years ago.
The match brought the best out of Ishant, who wrecked the English batting order in the second innings after setting a target of 319. Incidentally, it was Dhoni who persuaded him to bowl short to the middle-order batsman, the advice of which the lanky pacer initially refused to heed to. The plan worked in the end, as Ishant grabbed five wickets in a memorable spell to guide the hosts to a 95-run win.
9. India vs Bangladesh, ICC World T20, 2016: You don't win, until you win. That's a phrase Mushfiqur Rahim should have kept in mind while breaking into premature celebrations during the group match against India in the ICC World T20 last year.
Chasing the 147 set by India, Bangladesh were in the hunt for victory throughout their chase, even though they kept losing at regular intervals. Needing 11 off the last over, Rahim brought the Bangladeshis to the brink of victory with back-to-back boundaries, before a brainfade saw them lose two wickets off the fourth and fifth deliveries.
Dhoni took off his gloves ahead of the final ball of the match, anticipating a run-out opportunity, and managed to out-run Mustafizur Rahman to the strike's stumps to run him out. India pulled off a victory from the jaws of defeat, leaving the Bangladeshi fan contingent at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in tears.
10. India vs Australia, ICC World T20, 2016: It was Virat Kohli at it again, as he propelled the Indians into the semis of the World T20 with a magnificent 82 not out, one that will surely rank among his best knocks alongside the Hobart ton mentioned earlier in this piece.
Chasing 161 to win, the Indian opening duo of Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma could not contribute much to the Indian total, and neither could Suresh Raina. Kohli added 45 for the fourth wicket with Yuvraj Singh, before sharing the match-winning stand with skipper Dhoni to setup the win.
Published Date: Jan 05, 2017 16:34 PM | Updated Date: Jan 05, 2017 16:34 PM