The 2007 World T20 was a turning point in the careers of two important Indian cricketers – Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni. The former established himself as a match winner with blistering knocks while the latter made a mark with his captaincy by winning the tourney as a debutant captain.
A lot has happened over the years and what blooms now, is a question mark on one’s career while the other has been blamed for it. Has the friendship that prevailed on and off the field between the two grown into enmity? Has the duo that finished matches for India on a winning note broken apart? Has the partnership that was a nightmare for the opposition come to an end?
With all sorts of questions circling round and round in the minds of many, it is time to go back to 2007 and slowly proceed until 2015 and analyze the bond between the two..
The victorious 2007 World T20 campaign
It was 2005 when Dhoni marked his entry into Indian cricket and Yuvraj revived from a dip in his form. Dhoni climbed through the ranks to become the number one ODI batsman after some consistent performances. A jaw-dropping fact is that he has never moved out of the top 10 since then. Both played some crucial knocks over the next 2 years, but the stage was not so well set for the inaugural World T20 in South Africa.
With India playing without a coach and also under a new captain, India progressing to the final and clinching the title was like a bolt from the blue. While Dhoni proved his captaincy skills in the tournament, Yuvraj spoke with his bat, thrashing mighty bowlers out of the park. Who will forget the six sixes by Yuvraj off Stuart Broad’s over?
The then Indian ODI captain Rahul Dravid resigned, following which it was again Dhoni who was selected to lead the ODI side. With big guns like Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly in the side, Yuvraj was selected as the vice-captain of the team. Yuvraj was awarded the ‘Man of the Series’ gag in the victory against Pakistan at home.
Trouble in paradise?
The first signs of chaos rose in 2008 when there were speculations that there was a rift in the dressing room because Dhoni was named the captain.
Yuvraj, at the time, said, “I think things like rivalry and confrontations are talks stirred up by the media. Me and Dhoni are very good friends and help each other at any time because we understand how the game has to be played.”
However, he did confess he wanted to captain the side some day. The next few years saw the duo rise as two of the best finishers of the game. Together, they shared vital stands for India, leading the team to glory.
Their partnership statistics can do all the talking, with them having added 3916 runs together in all formats of the game. This includes 11-century stands and 19 half-century stands at an impressive average of 48.34. 5 out of their 11-century stands have come against arch-rivals Pakistan.
They have remained not out 11 times together with their highest partnership being 158. It came against Zimbabwe in 2005 when half of the team was sent back to the pavilion with the score at 91, requiring 159 more to win. Yuvraj batted brilliantly and scored a fluent 120 off 124 balls. He was matched shot by shot by his partner Dhoni who scored an unbeaten 67 off 63 balls. They have shared a 100-run stand in two consecutive matches thrice in their ODI career.
Some of their indispensable run-stands include:
- 102* vs Pakistan in 2006 when India were standing derailed at 190/5, requiring 99 runs more to win an ODI.
- 148 vs Australia in 2009 after India were reduced to 53/3, needing 177 runs more to win an ODI.
- 102* vs Australia in 2013. This T20 match was a second comeback for Yuvraj after he was diagnosed with a rare kind of cancer. It looked like a Himalayan task to chase down 202 in 20 overs and after losing three important wickets, things got spiced up. Yuvraj arrived at the crease and was expected to proceed with the huge run chase, a job that he had done many times in the past in ODIs with Dhoni for company. Yuvraj slammed 77 off 35 balls while Dhoni supported him with a 21-ball 24. They added 102 in just 53 balls, sealing the match for India.
- Last, but not the least, their 54-run partnership from just 42 balls against Sri Lanka in the 2011 World Cup final made sure that India emerged as the world champions. Dhoni’s 91 off 79 balls and Yuvraj’s rapid 21 finished off things in style.
Enjoying success together
In the span of 4 years between 2007 and 2011, India achieved a lot under the captaincy of Dhoni, which include a few notables ones like the Commonwealth Bank series in Australia (2008), Asia Cup in 2010 and India becoming the number one Test team in the world. Not only did the captain lead his side to victory but also supported and provided encouragement for players under him. Yuvraj, who was not in fine form before the World Cup, was backed by the Indian skipper during the tournament. As a result of that and hard work, Yuvraj was India’s ‘backbone’ during the big tournament.
Dhoni and Yuvraj have not only been partners on the field but also off the field, where their friendship has done the talking. Interviews and press meets over the years show how they have supported each other. In the press conference after the World Cup final, Yuvraj referred to Dhoni as one of the greatest captains that India have ever had and added that Sourav Ganguly and Dhoni have helped him a lot in his career.
Their moral support and respect for each other has been prevalent since a long time. Dhoni has confessed that he learnt a lot from Yuvraj including passion for the game, determination and controlled aggression while in return Yuvraj admires Dhoni’s captaincy, consistency, hard work and the down-to-earth nature and has called him as ‘a good human being’.
Tough phases for Dhoni and Yuvraj
Yuvraj had a tough phase in his career in the aftermath of the World Cup and things have not been smooth till date. After a fight with cancer, he returned to the national side in 2012. On the other hand, after suffering humiliating defeats at the hands of Australia and England overseas, Dhoni’s Test captaincy was under criticism. In 2013, India clinched the Champions Trophy under Dhoni, who became the only captain to have all ICC trophies under his belt.
Much was expected from the Indian side in the 2014 World Cup and they ended up as the runners-up. Yuvraj’s slow knock in the finals was said to have cost them the trophy as a result of which his house was pelted with stones. Dhoni, on being questioned about Yuvraj, backed the out of form player, stating that the Punjab cricketer was trying his best out in the middle and added that he did not want to speak about the selection process with domestic leagues coming up.
Yuvraj had a decent IPL in 2014 after he was bought for Rs. 14 crores by Royal Challengers Bangalore. There were question marks over his future after he was excluded in the list of 30 probables for the Indian World Cup squad. In the meanwhile, Dhoni announced a sudden retirement from Tests towards the end of 2014.
With the date for the final World Cup squad announcement approaching, back-to-back centuries and decent knocks in the Ranji beamed in a ray of hope for Yuvraj to find a place in the squad but the selection committee stuck to 15 players who were already in the earlier selected list.
Criticism of Dhoni by Yuvraj’s father
Criticisms did pop up again, but it all got heated up later on February 16, two days after the World Cup had commenced when Yuvraj’s father and former cricketer Yograj Singh slammed Dhoni, accusing him of being the reason behind Yuvraj’s exclusion from the team. It was on the same day Yuvraj was bought by Delhi Daredevils for a whopping Rs. 16 crores in the IPL auctions.
Yograj’s statements created a controversy among fans while Yuvraj took to Twitter and cooled up things by saying: “Like every parent my dad is also passionate and I am sure got carried away always enjoyed playing under Mahi (MS Dhoni) and would do so in future.”
When one looks up to the dictionary for cricket, controversy always comes on top. This topic, for one, has been turned into an open-ended question seeking various answers. Is Dhoni the person really behind it? Can we see a Yuvi-MSD partnership again? Will the cricketing world see Yuvraj back in national colours for one last time? Anything can happen in the ‘Gentleman’s Game’.