A journey of nine long and fruitful years came to an end in January 2017 as MS Dhoni resigned as India’s limited-overs captain. Images of the then 26-year-old rejoicing with the World T20 trophy in possession remains afresh among Indian fans.
And with it, remain his most memorable moves as a young, learning captain whether that was after lifting the inaugural T20 World Cup or handling seniors under him. Here are six of the best memories from the most selfless and humble leader perhaps the world has ever seen - MS Dhoni.
1. Allowing others to hold the trophy
This humility was seen in him right from when he first won India a tournament – the World T20 in South Africa in 2007. Captain Dhoni and his men surprised the world by winning the tournament despite being underdogs, when Pakistan were edged past by 5 runs on that evening in Johannesburg.
Dhoni called upon his teammates to celebrate, handed over the trophy to them and stepped aside to enjoy from the side. This was just the beginning. The trend continued with the 2011 ODI World Cup, which Sachin Tendulkar and Piyush Chawla can be seen holding aloft in the image. The 2013 Champions Trophy, which Shikhar Dhawan and Ravindra Jadeja were seen lifting was also an example of Dhoni's humility.
Every bilateral and tri-series has seen the same from the humble and one of a kind Dhoni.
2. Allowing Sourav Ganguly to lead in his final Test
“I didn't expect MS to ask me to captain the side for five overs. I was already switched off, so he woke me up. I didn't know what was happening during the first six-seven balls,” was how Sourav Ganguly summed up his experience of arranging the field and picking the bowlers during his farewell Test against Australia in Nagpur, 2008.
It was skipper Dhoni who wanted Ganguly to lead in the latter's farewell Test. Dhoni was already growing within only a year as captain, he was not bothered about the limelight. As soon as the ninth Australian wicket fell, Ganguly was handed over the responsibility.
With this move, not only did Dhoni take us back to the good, old days of the Prince of Kolkata’s leadership, but he also etched a rare memory in every fan's mind.
3. Taking it upon himself to go out at No.5 in the 2011 World Cup final
Easily one of Dhoni's biggest masterstrokes was during the 2011 World Cup final. Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli had steadied India’s ship after both openers fell early while chasing 275 against a strong Sri Lanka team in the final. Kohli was dismissed with India needing a further 161 to win.
Everyone expected the in-form Yuvraj Singh to walk into the middle, but instead, Dhoni was seen walking down the steps to join Gambhir. India’s then coach Gary Kirsten had spoken of Dhoni’s willingness to take the initiative despite a lean run throughout the World Cup.
“After the second wicket fell, there was a knock on the dressing room window and he was saying, "I want to go in next’”, Kirsten recalls of Dhoni’s desperation to perform his duties as captain.
The move proved to be a match-winning one as Dhoni and Gambhir put on a 109-run stand while Dhoni himself scored a 79-ball 91* that brought about India's win.
4. Continuing with Ishant Sharma in the Champions Trophy final, 2013
The final of the 2013 Champions Trophy was a keenly contested affair that went all the way down to the wire. With England needing 28 runs from the last three overs and two well set batsmen at the crease, Dhoni opted to bowl Ishant Sharma for the 18th over.
Ishant had already been hit for 27 in three overs, with his final delivery of the previous over having been deposited in the mid-wicket stands by Bopara. Ishant began with a dot ball but was thrashed for a six by Morgan in the next ball.
Two wides followed, and England needed 20 runs off 16 balls. Ishant struck as he had Morgan caught by Ashwin off the third ball, and in the next ball, Bopara looked to pull but found the man to perfection at square leg.
Dhoni's persistance with Ishant worked for India as the pacer gave away just one run off the last two balls from the over. With England needing 19 from the last two overs, the hosts could not get across the line as India celebrated a five-run win.
5. Calling upon Virat Kohli to lift the tri-series trophy in 2013
Just days after lifting the Champions Trophy, India were off to the Caribbean to contest in a tri-series involving the West Indies and Sri Lanka. MS Dhoni pulled his hamstring in India’s first game and was ruled out of the next few games.
Virat Kohli stepped in as captain for the remaining three group games, of which India won two and qualified for the finals. Dhoni returned to lead the side in the final and was on strike as India needed 15 runs to win from the final over.
The Indian skipper clobbered 16 off the first four deliveries to seal the win for India. In the post-match presentation, Dhoni acknowledged Kohli's contributions and called for the stand-in skipper to pose with the trophy.
6. Letting Virat Kohli score the winning run in the 2014 World T20 semifinal
India had reached the semifinal of yet another global tournament under Dhoni. The battle this time was for a spot in the final of the World T20, 2014 in Bangladesh. An energetic South African side took on the Men in Blue, who needed 173 to beat them. Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane and Suresh Raina all made crucial contributions in the chase before Raina fell in the penultimate over of the chase.
One run was required off seven balls and Dhoni was on strike. Virat Kohli, who had led the way thus far in the chase stood on 68 off 43 balls at the other end. Beuran Hendricks pitched it short, only for Dhoni to present a dead bat. The captain wanted Kohli to hit the winning runs in the next over.
Kohli obliged in the next over when he charged down the track to a Dale Steyn delivery in the final over to book India’s spot in the final.