The legacy left behind by MS Dhoni
When a long-haired 23-year-old man made his debut for India back in 2004, looking more like a Bollywood actor than a sportsman, we would have probably not thought that 14 years later, he would go on to become one of the most celebrated Indian sportsmen ever, and have such a huge influence on Indian sports.
But today, this man called Mahendra Singh Dhoni has, like the iconic Sachin Tendulkar carved his place in the annals of Indian cricket as one of its greatest.
The Early Years
When Dhoni first burst onto the international scene, he was typically the marauder unleashing a brutal assault on the opposition. In his 5th ODI against Pakistan, Dhoni plundered a murderous 148 and left the Pakistanis dazed with his audacious stroke play.
He was not the man blessed with the most immaculate technique like other great Indian batsmen, but instead, he signified the valor of youth and displayed the intent to dominate.
One thing that struck everyone about Dhoni was his incredible bat speed and hand-eye coordination. His ability to send the ball soaring into the crowd with a powerful flick of his wrists made him a dangerous batsman to bowl to.
In his first three years in International cricket, Dhoni managed to keep his place as the first choice wicket-keeper batsman of the Indian team.
A Leader Is Unearthed
Then, after the Indian team suffered a shock first round exit in the 2007 World Cup, Rahul Dravid, the then Indian captain stepped down, and in September in the same year, the inaugural edition of the ICC World T20 came calling.
This was where fate intervened, and a new and glorious chapter in Indian cricket history was about to unfold.
The big names in Indian cricket- including the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, and Rahul Dravid decided not to take part in the event, and the responsibility of leading the Indian team fell on the young shoulders of MS Dhoni.
Four weeks later, India, under the dynamic leadership of Dhoni won the tournament, beating arch-rivals Pakistan in a tense final. India had scripted history, but more importantly, a new beacon of light, a new ray of hope- a leader in MS Dhoni was unearthed.
India soon tasted unprecedented success under Dhoni. In the year 2008, they won a tri-series in Australia for the first time, and when Dhoni took over the Test captaincy as well, the team reached the No.1 spot in the longest format too.
The team gelled together as one unit, and India, under MS Dhoni became a force to reckon with.
The Knock That Allowed Dhoni To Capture his Place in the Hearts Of Millions
In the year 2011, the World Cup was to be played in the Indian sub-continent. There was an unprecedented frenzy in the country, and the whole of India wanted their team to win the tournament. The last time India had won the World Cup was almost three decades ago, in the year 1983, and there were massive expectations from the Indian public.
The team was in excellent form throughout the tournament. Virender Sehwag was providing the team flying starts, Sachin Tendulkar was once again proving that age is just a number, Zaheer Khan was providing India with vital breakthroughs, and Yuvraj Singh was in the form of his life.
The Indian cricket team steamrolled all its opponents and progressed to the final.
On April 2nd, 2011, more than a billion people’s eyes were on the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. Sri Lanka batted first and posted a challenging 274 on the board.
In reply, the Indians lost two early wickets in the form of Sehwag and Tendulkar. When young batting sensation Virat Kohli too fell, after contributing a useful 35, India was precariously placed at 114/3, and the game was slowly tilting in favor of the Sri Lankans.
And in that critical stage, in walked MS Dhoni. He batted as if he was a man possessed, used the depth of the crease and punched the great Muttiah Muralitharan with finesse. He used his fast hands and cut and flicked the Lankan pacers with telling effect.
Even when he reached his fifty, he barely raised his bat, as he was aware that he had to stay till the end.
India was slowly inching closer to the target with Dhoni leading the way, and when Kulasekara ran in to bowl the second ball of the 49th over, India needing 4 runs to win, with 11 balls in hand.
The whole of India waited with bated breath...
Kulasekara bowled the ball on off stump, Dhoni connected it right with the middle of his bat, and the ball sailed over mid-on into the crowd.
One billion people erupted in unbridled joy across India. Tendulkar ran onto the field like a child with tears streaming down his cheeks, Yuvraj went and hugged his Captain. India were World Champions after 28 years!
Their Captain had played a decisive knock in the final and captured his place in the hearts of every Indian cricket fan.
2011 World Cup And Beyond
In the year 2013, Dhoni played his best Test knock at the M.A Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai. He just ripped apart the Australian attack and scored a whirlwind 224, pummeling the bowlers to all parts of the ground.
In June 2013, India, under Dhoni, won the ICC Champions Trophy at Edgbaston, beating hosts England.
And with that win, Dhoni, as captain was boasting of a glittering resume- he had led India to victory in the inaugural edition of the ICC World T20, India had clinched the No.1 spot in Tests under his leadership, the team had won the CB Series in Australia, he had led India to a World Cup triumph after 28 years, and now, the team had won the ICC Champions Trophy as well.
Add to this the 3 IPL titles and the 2 Champions League victories, and you have a captaincy record that puts Dhoni at the highest pedestal.
In the 2015 World Cup, India played well, but in the semifinal of the marquee event, Australia knocked out the defending champions by playing some riveting cricket.
The last two years have seen Dhoni’s Midas touch slowly ebbing away from him, he is now struggling to force the pace and mortality seems have caught up with him.
The Legacy That He Leaves Behind
We shall have to understand that Dhoni now, is closer to the sunset of his illustrious career. The 2019 World Cup will, in all probability be the last hurrah for the legendary cricketer.
And with Dhoni now in the twilight of his career, the question to be asked is- what is the legacy that MS Dhoni leaves behind?
The answer to this is simple- for you, me and millions of Indians, Dhoni has shown that you need not to be the most gifted to be the most successful person in life. He has shown us that being who we are, and implementing our ideas in our own way, can take us to great heights in life.
For, leading his life “the Dhoni way” has allowed him to carve a niche for himself and leave behind a legacy to be emulated for generations to come.