Right from the time Mahendra Singh Dhoni was made the captain of the Indian cricket team, the wicketkeeper-batsman was subject to an oft-repeated statement — Dhoni received a well-built team and his success was more due to his team and not reflective of his ability as a captain.
While this may be considered to be true in his formative days with the ODI and Test side, the Twenty20 format has been where Dhoni, the captain, shines brightest.
Especially in the Indian Premier League (IPL) — where Dhoni captains the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) side since their inception — he has been a different breed of tactician altogether.
On Sunday, the Super Kings side took on Sunrisers Hyderabad, probably the best bowling outfit in this edition's IPL, and set them a target of 183. In the first over of the chase, Dhoni tossed the ball to 25-year-old medium pacer Deepak Chahar who has opened the CSK bowling in every match so far in this edition.
His first four deliveries were dot balls and debutant Ricky Bhui was under immense pressure to get off the strike. Chahar deceived the batsman with swinging deliveries one after the other and bowled an outswinger that kissed the outside edge of the blade and went into the hands of Shane Watson at first slip. Chahar almost snared the next batsman, Manish Pandey, with another inswinger that just headed down leg.
A wicket maiden for Chahar set up CSK's 182-run defence in a way that even Dhoni wouldn't have imagined.
Chahar came back to bowl the third over the innings. The clean run-up followed by yet another away-swinger that Pandey swings at wildly to send the ball flying to third man, who snaps a well-judged catch. He gave away a solitary run in the next five balls.
Since 2008, Dhoni has unearthed an uncapped Indian bowler for the CSK side who has been revolutionary in his role.
In the first edition of IPL, the CSK bowling outfit consisted of names like Muttiah Muralitharan, Albie Morkel, Makhaya Ntini and Lakshmipathy Balaji, it was Manpreet Gony, a then relatively unknown medium pace bowler from Punjab, who picked the most wickets for Chennai, bowled the most dot balls and was one of the most constant features in the CSK side.
In 2010, Dhoni ushered in the entry of yet another uncapped bowler who would go on to become one of India's best spinners — Ravichandran Ashwin.
Ashwin and West Indian Dwayne Bravo were Chennai's main wicket-taking bowlers in the following seasons. In 2013, Mohit Sharma, a Haryana-based bowler was drafted into the CSK side. In his first season with CSK, Mohit was the second highest wicket-taker for the side and had the best economy rate.
In 2014, Mohit won the Purple Cap by picking up the most wickets in that season. Most of these uncapped bowlers played the entire season for the Super Kings and were soon drafted into the Indian national side too. Dhoni's knack of spotting and grooming talent has been on point since his tenure as skipper began in 2007.
It is with such man-management skills and an eye for talent that Dhoni marshalled his resources to two World Cups and two IPL titles.
Chahar is a talent that could have sunk into oblivion after a string of injuries threatened to derail a career that began with astounding figures of 8 for 10 on his Ranji Trophy debut. While his effectiveness with the old ball is yet to be tested, the T20 format allows his natural attacking style to flourish under the watchful eyes of captain Dhoni, who bowls him out within the first 10 overs.
Chahar stormed his way back into cricketing limelight when he ended up as the highest wicket-taker in the 2018 edition of Syed Mushtaq Ali trophy that has kick-started many a career.
Welcomed into the Super Kings side that boasted of bowlers like Bravo and Shane Watson, Chahar was guided by some of the most experienced names in cricket.
In his debut match for CSK, Chahar returned figures of 1/14 and had the best economy rate in the encounter against Mumbai Indians. The next two matches against Kolkata Knight Riders and Kings XI Punjab were forgettable affairs for the swing bowler from Haryana. But, he was back among wickets in the next match against Rajasthan Royals, where he sent captain Ajinkya Rahane and in-form batsman Sanju Samson back to the pavilion.
On Sunday, Chahar bowled the fifth over of the innings and mixed his swinging deliveries with slower ones as Deepak Hooda holed out the second ball of the over to extra cover. A short ball to Kane Williamson ended over deep square leg boundary but the other deliveries were dot balls and he left Sunrisers tottering at 28/3 after five overs giving away a paltry seven runs off his three overs.
Eight more runs off his final over ensured he ended up with figures of 3/15 off his full quota of overs that saw Chahar maintain a nagging off-stump line to both the left and right-handed batsmen. This level of consistency ensured he ended up with economical figures that set up a thrilling victory for Chennai as the Hyderabad outfit ended an agonising four runs short.
CSK is back on top of the table and for the time being, the cricketing action has taken centrestage for the controversial team from Chennai who play their "home" games in Pune.
It might still be early days in the tournament but the one thing that remains unchanged is Dhoni's faith in yet another internationally untested bowler and Deepak Chahar's consistency in repaying that faith is acting as an important factor in Chennai Super Kings' strong return into the IPL fold.