Mahendra Singh Dhoni never ceases to surprise. On and off the park. Twenty-five months after sending the nation into a state of mourning – after he suddenly decided to quit Test cricket – India’s most successful captain has chosen to step down as the ODI and T20 skipper.
The number of trophies he won for India, the number of almost-lost matches he turned on their heads, all aside. It is the revolution that the country needs to thank MSD the most for. Behind the curtains, it was Dhoni who completely transformed India’s limited-overs-cricket.
He made unpopular calls and stuck by them, no matter the consequences. He played gambles nobody else would have. And the end result? Three ICC trophies.
There are 5 present Indian cricketers who would not have cemented a place in the Indian National Team if not for MS Dhoni.
1) Rohit Sharma
The year 2013 stands witness to the glorious transition story of India opener Rohit Sharma. In ODIs, before 2013, Rohit averaged 30.43 per innings. Towards the end of 2013, Rohit Sharma was the second highest run scorer in the world in that calendar year.
At the start of 2013, Rohit, after a long period of slump, got another shot at opening the batting, and that opportunity completely changed his ODI batting numbers. From an underperforming player who was constantly confounding critics with his inconsistency, the Mumbai batsman transformed into a remarkably prolific batsman.
And the mastermind Dhoni played a role in that. It needed a man of Dhoni’s character to silently back Rohit even after a string of poor performances. The 29-year-old was asked to open the innings in January 2013 against England in Mohali in which he smashed 83 off 93 balls.
2) Ravindra Jadeja
A similar story can be told of Ravindra Jadeja. Think back to 2013. In ODIs, before 2013, Jadeja averaged 38.42 with the ball. But that year, in 2013, he went onto become the leading wicket-taker in ODIs.
Finishing with 24 wickets in the series and valuable chip-ins with the bat, the Gujarat warrior proved himself a bowling all-rounder, shedding the burden of expectations of making big scores. The Indian captain nurtured an international player from a domestic one.
3) Ravichandran Ashwin
Despite representing Tamil Nadu at the Ranji Trophy for many years, Ashwin came to the spotlight only after his good performance for Chennai Super Kings in the IPL in 2010, when MSD was the captain of the yellow brigade. After his breathtaking performance in the tournament, he made the debut for the Indian ODI team and later his Test debut the very next year.
Ashwin proved to be less effective in countries like Australia and England where he was given a run for his money. Every time that pressure piled up on him to deliver, he was backed by Dhoni and bounced back with compelling performances. he was the best spinner in the team in ODI’s and T20.
4) Suresh Raina
Raina’s relationship with former captain MS Dhoni has always been viewed cynically. You must have heard it from various quarters— he is a ‘special’ friend and that he gets some advantage out of it. When Dhoni did not play a couple of series, Raina was made the captain.
Who wore Dhoni’s jersey after his Test retirement and went out to bat? None other than Raina!
Dhoni was once quoted about Raina saying, “He’s the best that we have got and we need to back him. Because if we don’t back him, the new guy who comes in will say: ‘I don’t want to play shots. I’ll make 25 runs and go home not out’.
Raina confessed, “I have learnt a lot from Dhoni. I keep talking to him and asking him questions in the field, standing at slip or point as to what he is thinking and why he made a particular move.
“He is so calm under pressure and he is one of the most dangerous batsmen in the world.”
5) Virat Kohli
Number 3 batsman Virat Kohli had an impressive start to his limited-overs career but appeared wobbly in the Test matches. After he failed to get enough runs in Australia (2011-12), there were several voices questioning his technique and temperament. But Dhoni knew the talent that Kohli was. The Delhi-born got a fifty in the third Test and a ton in the next match in Adelaide.
“The selectors were keen to have Rohit Sharma play instead of Virat Kohli at Perth in 2012. I was the vice-captain while MS Dhoni was leading the team.
Dhoni, the captain, carried all of these players through their bad phases. It is now time for these men to repay him back by winning the 2019 World Cup. This time for Dhoni!