How MS Dhoni became 'Captain Cool'

How MS Dhoni took charge of a scattered Indian cricket team and turned it into a powerhouse

March 23, 2007. For any other person it was a usual day but for the cricketing fans in India, it was a black day. Chasing a target of 255 runs in their final group match of the 2007 ODI World Cup against Sri Lanka, the Indian cricket team lost the match by 69 runs and crashed out of the tournament. To digest the fact that last World Cup's finalists failed to go past the group stage was tough and as passionate as the Indian fans are, the consequences were severe. Posters were set on fire and stones were pelted at the houses of cricketers. Gregg Chappell who was the then coach resigned from his post and so did the captain, Rahul Dravid. Sourav Ganguly was making a comeback to the side, there were question marks over Virender Sehwag and Harbhajan Singh's place in the side and Sachin Tendulkar refused to take the captaincy.

The selectors and fans were in a dilemma. They had to take some tough calls and identify a man who can take Indian cricket to new heights. What were the options? Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni. Yuvraj Singh with his large than life image was a fan favourite and had established himself in India's middle-order. However, the selectors showed faith in Mahendra Singh Dhoni, a long-haired, unconventional player whose stars were rising with his big-hitting skills and ability to finish matches.

Dhoni's first task as captain was the 2007 T20 World Cup in South Africa. A format that was relatively unknown for the Indian side having played just one match in this format before landing in South Africa. With a side full of youngsters, inexperienced players and relatively unknown faces, MS Dhoni took the field against arch-rival Pakistan in his very first match of the tournament. In a game that ended as a tie, Dhoni held his nerves during the ball out and registered his first victory as a captain.
          Slide 10 of 46: Indian cricketer Mahendra Singh Dhoni (R) runs back to the shelter of the dressing room after joking with teammate Sreesanth in the rain at the ground as the start of play was delayed by rain on the fourth day of the second test between India and West Indies at the Beausejour stadium in Gros Islet, St. Lucia 13 June 2006. West Indies put to follow-on by India are 43 runs for the loss of 1 wicket after play was called off due to rain.

That was the beginning of a phenomenon, the beginning of MS Dhoni era in Indian cricket. There was no more nail biting in the slog overs like Sourav Ganguly instead there were smiles. The world had never seen a captain as cool as MS Dhoni, a man who unlike others liked to take the match to the final over and test the temperament of his opponent. Dhoni along with Gary Kirsten changed the fortunes of the Indian team.

Within a few months, India had defeated Australia overseas to clinch the CB series, came victorious against New Zealand away from home and went on to become the number 1 Test side. It was Dhoni's tactical brilliance that helped India win the 2011 ODI World Cup.

Yes, Sachin scored runs from the top, Sehwag gave us quick starts, Yuvraj flexed his muscles, Zaheer provided those crucial breakthroughs but it was Dhoni who gave the act final touches. Dhoni was the one who allowed Sehwag to bat freely, he was the one who backed Ravindra Jadeja despite continuous criticism and he is the one who is guiding Virat Kohli.

Some people are destined to become great while others make their way to greatness. The former Indian skipper is the latter.

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