MS DHONI – The Best Indian Captain
Mahendra Singh Dhoni is the batsman who went from a young dasher swashbuckling to a seasoned master-finisher. The wicket-keeper who kept the stumpings cool and did fun run-outs with no-look. The superstar who validated the fact who cricketer superstar can potentially come from any corner of the world.
Years down the road, as a new generation of fans looks back on Indian cricket history, they’ll recall Dhoni as the man who led the country to a 2007 World T20 win, a 2011 World Cup win, and a 2013 Champions Trophy lift. Dhoni is the first and only captain in the game so far to have accomplished the trifecta, and this is a feat that could also last for decades to come.
Success Story Of MS Dhoni
No cricketer has captained India more than Dhoni (332) in international matches. No cricketer has won more matches in the international cricket for India than Dhoni (178) as captain. No other captain in the game has won all three big ICC trophies in cricket white ball. Those figures tell you the story of how the tenure of Dhoni as Indian captain was effective and important. He also boasted an impressive record in tournament finals, winning seven out of 11 times after a multi-team game where he led India in a knockout match.
Standout Qualities As A Leader
Just as ‘The Wall’ isn’t the greatest of Rahul Dravid’s nicknames in the hindsight, one has to wonder the same thing about Captain Cool for Dhoni. Yeah, yes, on a cricket field he never flustered easily but attributing his performance to being calm does not do justice to the cricketing brain he has.
The journey of MS Dhoni came across as a street-smart cricketer who brilliantly read the game and who effortlessly translated it into his captaincy. Certainly, there is an aspect of chance involved with paying for his high-profile games, but underneath all that was the term that was synonymous with his captaincy: method.
Over the years, Dhoni was a hard-to-read guy when he started to answer the simplest of questions in (maybe, knowingly) presses conferences. Yet he’d been a little more open to the media in his early days as captain. He talked about what was important to him as captain in this 2008 interview with ESPNCricinfo. “One of my ideas is being a captain on the field and off the field where you ought to truly enjoy the company of each other. I don’t like learning about cricket off the field. As captain, you’re going to take important decisions and your thoughts or choices will have a major effect on the team, so it depends a lot on the people you’re offering jobs to. That’s why I’ve always said that the captain is the one who accumulates all the energy and then transfers it to various individuals-bowlers or batsmen or all-rounder. He’s a selfish guy who is picking guys to do the job for him. Motivating people who would do lots of work for him is really important to him.
— Via ESPNCricinfo (March 2008).
Personal Record During Captaincy
Having shown signs early in his career of being an effective counter-puncher, Dhoni has grown into one of the game’s best finishers. It’s also fascinating to see the effect of captaincy on the personal record of a cricketer, and as the tables below indicate, Dhoni has done better as India’s leader than elsewhere. And as his ODI records indicate, his average went up as strike rate dropped, which gives us a simple understanding of how his positions in the Indian set-up shifted with the bat.
Most Famous Triumphs:
- ICC Men’s ODI World Cup 2011: Dhoni, of course, rounded it off in style and India captured the 28-year void in World Cup. Shortly after he struck the six off Nuwan Kulasekara, the party in the dressing room started and he was magnificent on the night of the final as the Indian captain. You’ve heard this, you know, before, have you not?
- ICC Men’s T20 World Cup, 2007: For several reasons, this was a remarkable victory. But the fact that it came in 2007, not long after a horrific low point (and not just for Indian cricketers but even for the home fans who took it too far after the demise of the ODI World Cup), made this victory even sweeter. For the first time, a brash, tall, long hairy Dhoni told the world that he was going to be a good captain.
- ICC Champions Trophy, 2013: The 2013 Champions Trophy regularly features on the list of India’s most successful triumphs since the two World Cup wins for others. But this tournament was special, and with spin bowling and a new-look top 10, Dhoni found a way to win. The victory also came on the heels of an IPL fiasco which would certainly have damaged the morale of the franchise, if not for the soothing influence of Dhoni as captain.
- Commonwealth Bank Series, 2008: “When the one-day team was selected and the timing of the selection process was questioned,” Dhoni said of this victory. One wonder, would he have been as good as the captain of India if the CB Series did not go according to Dhoni ‘s plans? Would he have had the support? The World T20 victory was good, but this tri-series win paved the way for the Dhoni era.
- Test victory at Lord’s versus England, 2014: It was forgettable what came afterward, but Dhoni managed to lead his team to a Lord ‘s Test victory. Those don’t always happen.
- India became the world no one in Tests, 2009: having formally taken over the reins of the Test Team in 2008, Dhoni was the first Indian captain to lead the No. 1 side in 2009. During the time 2009-2011, the team remained at a peak for over 600 days.
Now, compare that with what Gary Kirsten had to say about India’s successful 2011 campaign, which gelled so well with Dhoni as India’s coach:
External pressure was ample but the internal dynamics of the work atmosphere remained peaceful and safe. We never panicked, no matter how well or how badly we were playing. The players trusted each other and we all knew that someone was going to deliver for the squad.
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We have moved away from concentrating on individual achievement and focused on what we as a team wished to accomplish. This was a fundamental shift and forced us to look every day at how we behaved and functioned as a group of people. In short, we concentrated on everything that could make the team atmosphere a better place to be, with lots of fun and happiness coming with it.
You can learn a lot more from the inspiring story of MS Dhoni about what makes him the amazing captain he’s, from his teammates and opponents, but in fact, the quotes above sum it up. Dhoni thrived on getting the best out of his players, whether it was with India or Chennai Super Kings. He respected the method (and maybe to a detriment, as tests started to fail him away from home in Test matches).