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Mahendra Singh Dhoni was a captain who made warriors out of his men

It is a season of sweeping change for Indian cricket. The winds of change that blew the sails of the BCCI in a new direction have turned into an unexpected storm. The Supreme Court’s decision to uproot the evil administrators of the BCCI was along expected lines. But MS Dhoni spiced up the soup with an unexpected twist by announcing his resignation as captain of the limited-overs Indian team.

Dhoni’s surprise move to vacate the chair in the ODI and T20 formats of the game, opens the door for Virat Kohli, to assume control of the reins as the undisputed monarch of Indian cricket. This change in leadership happens at an interesting phase of Indian cricket.

File picture of MS Dhoni. Getty

File picture of MS Dhoni. Getty

The Supreme Court has paved the way for a future in which former cricketers are expected to have a larger say in the running of the game. Anil Kumble is already the coach of the Indian team while Rahul Dravid is the man shaping the future of the younger generation.

India is ranked number one in the ICC Test rankings, establishing themselves at the head of the new world order. While the team did flirt with the top ranking earlier as well, their current fifteen point lead over Australia represents a degree of comfort that is rather uncommon.

The evolution of this team into world beaters has been a gradual process that has taken decades to achieve through some astute leadership by some inspirational players. Ajit Wadekar helped India break away from its self-imposed shackles by teaching them the virtue of ambition, even when playing overseas. Riding on some bold performances by a freshly minted Sunil Gavaskar, Wadekar’s men took on the might of the West Indies and England with pride and purpose.

Kapil Dev lifted the team into an altogether new orbit by inspiring them to a rousing World Cup victory that remains a definitive moment in the team’s cricket history to this day. The all-rounder’s ebullient approach to the game transformed Indian cricket, helped in no small measure by the emergence of television.

The 1990s weren’t as productive, but the vacuum was made sufferable by the presence of Sachin Tendulkar as well as the emergence of Sourav Ganguly and Dravid. Indian cricket was catapulted into a bold new era at the break of the new millennium.

At a time when betting cast a dark cloud over the game, Ganguly offered a silver lining that catapulted India into a bold new era. India’s cricket was defined by its mastery over the art of spin bowling and a defiant style of batting that laid focus on occupying the crease, often at the expense of scoring runs.

Ganguly taught his team to be aggressive, a trait that seemed too alien to a team draped in a deep shade of conservativism. The iconic moment when the Prince of Kolkata ripped open his India shirt for an exuberant celebration on the Lord’s balcony was an unforgettable reminder of his belligerence.

Ganguly’s reign coincided with the emergence of India as a power centre in the game. The Greg Chappell fiasco threatened to shred Indian cricket into pieces, but fortune favours the brave and Ganguly turned his men into warriors.

It was after this that MS Dhoni took over the reins of the team. The importance of television as the main medium of expression for cricket had grown deeper and stronger by the turn of the millennium.

Television allowed a greater role for technology in sport, and analysis became a way of life in cricket. Teams were surrounded by video and computer analysts that broke down every movement on and off the field to develop specific plans for the team.

Dhoni was nearly anachronistic under these circumstances. He was a man driven by his instincts, a gutsy cricketer who lead from the front and made warriors of his men. He expressed himself with rare freedom and the spirit rubbed off on his boys like a contagion.

Even as the rest of the world entrusted their fortunes to a mixture of back room staff and a host of super computers, Dhoni remained steadfast in his religious faith in his own gut. The two World Cups that nearly define his career and influence on Indian cricket serve as great reminders of Dhoni’s unflinching reliance on his instinct.

Who can forget the moment he threw the ball to Joginder Sharma in that T20 World Cup in South Africa? It was an inspired choice of a man, willing to flirt with defeat to embrace victory. The triumphant run of Dhoni’s boys was a breath of fresh air, given the absence of Tendulkar, Ganguly and Dravid from that team.

Victory helped Dhoni stamp his authority over the team, paving the way for a new chapter in Indian cricket. And the ODI World Cup in 2011 added to the near mythical status of Dhoni in Indian cricket lore.

The early departure of Virender Sehwag and Tendulkar left the team exposed in a World Cup final at home. In a brave move, Dhoni took the situation head on by promoting himself up the order. His 79 ball 91 was one of the most important innings in the history of Indian cricket. It was another bold expression by a man who believed in leading from the front.

Success was no longer a surprise, but a habit under the astute leadership of the man from Ranchi. The fact that Dhoni won 165 of 230 ODIs and 42 of 72 T20 matches as captain seal his legacy as one of the most successful leaders of modern day cricket.

But Dhoni will stand out among his peers for proving that even with all the technology at our disposal, the most valuable asset of a leader remains human instinct.

Updated Date: Jan 05, 2017 16:06 PM

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