One of India’s most successful captains, Mahendra Singh Dhoni is also the finest wicket-keeper the world has ever seen. Right from his batting, to his keeping, everything was always unconventional which extended to his captaincy as well.
Dhoni is considered to be as the most brilliant minds of international cricket. The reason behind that is nothing but his calmness and ability to make desperate decisions in desperate times. Here are some of his unorthodox decisions which turned out to be a game changer for team India as a captain.
1. Final over of ICC World Twenty20, 2007
World Cup Twenty20 2007 was MS Dhoni’s first ever international assignment as Indian skipper. He led the team which was relatively young and was unknown to the T20 era, into the finals of the tournament. The match of against the arch rivals, Pakistan and while batting first, India put 157 runs on the board. Pakistan was struggling in the chase until Misbah Ul Haq stood up to lit some hopes of winning but they lost the match by a small margin of 6 runs.
Pakistan needed around 13 runs in the final over and everyone was expecting that Harbhajan Singh will bowl the final over but Dhoni gave it to Joginder Sharma, a bowler who was not having a great tournament until then. He told Sharma to bowl as wide as possible. Despite being hit for a 6, Sharma stuck to Dhoni’s plan and Misbah played a scoop shot in order to clear the short fine leg but he missed timed it and played in the hands of S Sreesanth and India won the maiden World T20 trophy and Dhoni began his legacy.
2. Negative Captaincy
Indian team was having a lead in the three-match series by 1-0 against the Aussies in 2008. India batted first and put a decent total of 441 runs. Australia was easily going at 189-2 in just 49 overs in the second innings, well on course to touch India’s total. Dhoni then instructed his bowlers to bowl the outside off-stump line in order to stop teh flow of runs.
Many pundits criticized the “negative” tactics of Dhoni and exploded him for playing for the draw. Australia however, broke down suddenly and got out for just 356 runs. Then, India suddenly counter-attacked with Sehwag hitting 92 and Dhoni’s quick-fire fifty and set a difficult target of 382. India ended up winning the Test by 172 runs and everyone got a sight of something special by Dhoni in only his third Test as Indian skipper.
3. World Cup Final 2011
The one decision that made Dhoni a proven legend was none other than promoting himself up the order in the World Cup Final against Sri Lanka in 2011. The Lankans gave India a target of 275 and it was the target which was never chased in a World Cup final till then. Indian team was down to 114 for 3 with Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli went back to the pavilion.
Everyone was expecting the in-form Yuvraj Singh to come and take strike. Instead, it was Dhoni who came to the crease. Dhoni had an average tournament till that match and the whole world was surprised. He built a brilliant partnership with Gautam Gambhir, who played gritty innings of 97 runs – three runs short of a memorable century.
After Gambhir’s dismissal, Dhoni proved his tag of best finisher in the world and batted with Yuvraj Singh till the end. He finished the game with a huge six that will forever remain in the memory of Indian cricket fans and put him down as one of the most unconventional skippers to have played cricket.
4. Champions Trophy final, 2013
Indian pacer Ishant Sharma was smashed all over the park during the Champions Trophy final in England back in 2013. Chasing a diminishing total of 129, England were well on course to chase the target, needing just 28 off 18 with 6 wickets in hand.
Dhoni then turned towards Ishant with the ball, a bowler who had gone for 28 runs in his three overs. An unsafe decision, Ishant repaid the faith in him and picked two wickets in quick succession. That change the course of the match and the opposition was now under pressure. India held their nerve and Ravichandran Ashwin bowled an economical final over to hand India the Champions Trophy.
5. Dhoni took off the glove, World T20 2016
In the World T20 match against Bangladesh in 2016, the pressure was on India when the opposition needed 2 runs off 3 balls at Bangalore. In normal circumstances, the match was technically won by the opposition, fans had started leaving the stadium.
With a set Mushfiqur Rahim, a Bangladesh victory was assured. However, he was surprised by a sudden full toss and got caught out. The batsman after him too was out in the next ball, leaving the game poised at 2 runs off 1 ball.
After a lengthy discussion with the bowler, Dhoni removed his glove and took guard behind the stump. Then, as per his instruction, Hardik Pandya bowled a short one and the tail-ender wasn’t able to connect. Dhoni took no time to get the ball and sprinted towards the wickets in order to knock the bails off the stump before the non-striker could complete a run. India had pulled off the impossible win and Dhoni once again finished the game in style.