Mahendra Singh Dhoni dropped yet another bombshell on Wednesday evening when he announced his decision to step down from captaining India in limited overs formats, bringing an end to what undoubtedly was a glorious chapter in Indian cricket.
The 35-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman, who rose from the cricketing backwaters of Jharkhand to lead the game's most passionately-followed team, will stand aside as captain immediately, but will remain available to play in the limited overs series against England later this month.
"On the behalf of every Indian cricket fan and the BCCI, I would like to thank MS Dhoni for his outstanding contribution as the captain of the Indian team across all formats," chief executive of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) Rahul Johri said in a statement.
"Under his leadership, the Indian team has touched new heights and his achievements will remain etched forever in the annals of Indian cricket," he added.
Dhoni quit Test cricket in late 2014, with India having topped the rankings in the game's longest format under his inspiring captaincy, which was marked by innovative field settings and smart marshalling of his bowlers.
He was also known for taking remarkably bold decisions, most of which went on to pay big dividends for him. Let us go through some of those decisions which are now part of cricketing folklore:
1. Handing Joginder Sharma the final over in the 2007 World T20 finale
Pakistan needed 13 runs off the last six balls if they were to beat arch-nemesis India to clinch the inaugural edition of the tournament.
The experienced Harbhajan Singh had an over left ahead of the last over, and was widely expected to take up the responsibility of thwarting Misbah-ul-Haq from scoring the winning runs. Except, Dhoni decided to hand it to little-known Haryana cricketer Joginder Sharma, who started the over off with a wide before getting whacked for a six off a full toss.
Dhoni decided to move S Sreesanth to fine-leg. Joginder bowled a full one outside the off-stump and Misbah fell prey to temptation. He ended up scooping a catch to end all Pakistani hopes. As India lifted the trophy to cast away the gloom of a first-round exit in the 50-over World Cup earlier that year, Dhoni flagged off his glory days as Indian captain. Unfortunately for Joginder, that was where his international run would come to a halt.
2. Promoting himself ahead of Yuvraj Singh in the 2011 World Cup final
India playing the World Cup final in their own backyard could not have been a more dream-like situation, and the hosts were one step away from creating history, aside from ending a 28-year-old drought.
Except their pursuit towards that dream got off to a shaky start after they were reduced to 31/2 while chasing the 275-run target set by Sri Lanka. Enter Dhoni, who pushed himself up the order ahead of Yuvraj Singh, who himself was having quite a good World Cup. Dhoni stabilised the Indian innings by forming a crucial 109-run stand for the fourth wicket with Gautam Gambhir and went on to score a match-winning 79-ball 91 not out.
His six over long-on off Nuwan Kulasekara to send billion-plus fans into a state of frenzy, accompanied by commentator Ravi Shastri's magical words "Dhoniiii finishes off in style" will arguably go down as the single greatest moment in the minds of many Indian cricket fans.
3. Giving Ishant Sharma the ball in the 18th over in the 2013 Champions Trophy final
England had lost early wickets in their chase of the 130-run target in the final that was reduced to 20-overs per side due to rain. However, the middle-order duo of Eoin Morgan and Ravi Bopara formed a lively partnership that resurrected the tournament hosts.
With England needing 28 off 18 with six wickets in hand, pressure was growing on Dhoni's shoulders. Ishant Sharma, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja had an over left each, but 'Captain Cool' decided to turn towards the lanky pacer for the crucial 18th over. Two magical deliveries from him saw the two set batsmen return to the crease, with the momentum now shifting firmly towards India's favour.
This indeed was the game-changing over, as the remainder of the batting order could not cope up with the pressure from Jadeja and Ashwin, who bowled tightly to guide India to a five-run triumph, making Dhoni the only captain in the history of the game to win all three major ICC titles.
4. Asking Ishant to change bowling tactics at Lord's, 2014
India scripted a famous 95-run victory in the second game of the five-Test series in England in 2014. However, it was not an easy ride in the first session of the final day, with Joe Root and Moeen Ali forging a steady partnership for the fifth wicket and dominating the first two hours of play.
Skipper Dhoni asked Ishant to change his bowling tactics by bowling short, and going round the wicket. The challenge, however, was to convince Ishant to do so after the the latter initially was hesitant in implementing it.
Dhoni, however, ensured that he would stick to the advised length by setting the appropriate field. The plan worked in India's favour, as Ishant captured five wickets to trigger a slide that helped the hosts grab the 1-0 series lead.
5. Taking off his right glove in the final ball vs Bangladesh in World T20 2016
Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah needed to stay calm at the crease if they were to help Bangladesh defeat neighbours India in the ICC World T20 2016 clash. Dhoni, on the other hand, had no options left other than Hardik Pandya for the final over.
Back-to-back boundaries by Rahim saw the diminutive Bangladeshi wicketkeeper-batsman break into premature celebrations. They still needed two runs off the last three balls. What followed can perhaps easily be counted as one of the greatest brain fades, as Bangladesh lost two wickets off the next two deliveries off loose shots.
Bangladesh needed two runs off the final ball, and Dhoni decided to take his right glove off in order to quiken the entire process up of collecting the ball and running the batsman out at the striker's end. That's exactly what happened, with the Indian captain sprinting towards the stumps and beating Mustafizur Rahman by a few centimetres. The image of him disturbing the stumps, with Rahman's bat slightly behind the crease will surely go down as one of the most famous moments in Indian cricket.
With inputs from Reuters
Published Date: Jan 05, 2017 12:50 PM | Updated Date: Jan 05, 2017 13:25 PM