“Dhoni has been an outstanding captain, his record is terrific and he has done wonders for Indian cricket,” gushes Sourav Ganguly about MS Dhoni. Hitherto the man with the most successful record as Indian captain and one who changed the image of the Indian captain, Ganguly enjoys an exalted status in Indian cricket. But even he willingly acknowledges the wonderful things that Dhoni has worked out the game in this country and for the Indian team in particular.
Such is Dhoni’s awesome achievements that sometimes I feel that even the gushing praise from all quarters is not enough. The latest converts are the British press and as we all know Fleet Street hasn’t always been so spontaneously magnanimous in their praise of Indian cricketers. But the bottom line is results and on this record it is easy to see why Dhoni currently enjoys the status of greatest-ever Indian captain.
Indeed India have had their share of successful captains in the last 30 years dating back to June 25 1983 when under Kapil Dev India surprised the cricketing world by winning the World Cup in England. Over the last two decades in particular, the Indians have been fairly successful in both Tests and ODIs and besides the presence of some leading superstars of international cricket it has also been because of outstanding leadership.
Mohd Azharuddin was the first to lead India to victory in more than nine Tests (the record till then held by MAK Pataudi and Sunil Gavaskar). He finished with 14 victories in 47 Tests but he was lucky in that 13 of these wins came about at home and the remaining one too was notched up in the subcontinent against Sri Lanka. Azharuddin in fact had a run of nine successive Test victories over Sri Lanka, England, Zimbabwe and West Indies during 1990 – 1994.
Under Ganguly and then briefly Rahul Dravid, Indian teams registered one notable victory after another and this was also in the limited overs format with the triumph in the NatWest Trophy in England in 2002 and the runners-up spot in the World Cup in South Africa the following year being particularly significant.
But it is under Dhoni that Indian teams have really struck gold. It all started with the triumph in the inaugural T-20 World Cup in South Africa. He had to bide his time before taking over as Test captain since the selectors appointed Anil Kumble. In the meantime the Indian team under his captaincy notched up one more notable triumph by winning the CB Series in Australia for the first time in 2008.
He started his Test captaincy with a win and it has become almost a habit ever since. For an extended period Dhoni could do no wrong. He could seemingly walk on water or climb Mount Everest without oxygen as the Indian team under this charismatic captain went from strength to strength – winning a series in New Zealand after 41 years, climbing to No 1 status in the ICC Test rankings for the first time, winning the 2011 Fifty50 World Cup besides numerous other comparatively smaller triumphs at home and abroad.