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The Name is MSD

MSK Prasad, Sameer Dighe, Ajay Ratra, Vijay Dahiya, Syed Saba Karim, Deep Dasgupta, Parthiv Patel and Dinesh Karthik. Indian skippers in the late 1990s and early 2000s did have a really difficult time in choosing their wicketkeepers.  Either they could not keep well or bat well or both. After the tumultuous tour of New Zealand in late 2002, Sourav Ganguly, the then skipper, decided that he could afford to waste a spot in his eleven by giving it to a so-called specialist wicketkeeper.  And hence, Rahul Dravid,was asked to don the gloves, so that Ganguly could fit in another batsman.  But this did not last for long as   Dravid was made captain and Parthiv Patel was brought in. But in December 2004, just 3 days before the tsunami struck the Indian shore, an unassuming lad of 23 made his debut as a wicketkeeper-batsman for the Indian team on the tour of Bangladesh.  Little did they know, he would be the most successful skipper of the Indian Cricket team till date.  Mahendra Singh Dhoni, whom Sachin Tendulkar,who has played under at least a half a dozen of captains in his 21 year illustrious career, appreciates “Of all the captains I have played under, he’s certainly the best”, celebrates his 30th birthday today. This is just a tribute to the youth icon of India.

Entry into International Arena

Dhoni had a very impressive India ‘A’ tour against Zimbabwe and Kenya in the 2003-2004 season. He averaged a whopping 72 from 6 innings with the bat. He also had a fantastic record with the gloves in that series.  He immediately caught the eyes of the then and former captains of the Indian team and was then ediately taken in the squad that toured Bangladesh under the leadership of Sourav Ganguly. Dhoni had a very poor start to his career with the bat and a pretty decent form as a keeper. He averaged less than 10 after the series.  In all the 3 matches, he batted just before the bowlers. But the team persisted with Dhoni and took him in the squad against the visiting Pakistanis.  And when he was promoted up the order in his 5th match, he thrashed the opponents with disdain, coming up with a fantastic knock of a 148, then the highest score by an Indian wicketkeeper.

Rise of the star

Dhoni’s career reached new heights when he became a regular member of the Indian team. After Nayan Mongia, he has the been the most successful wicket keeper Indian cricket has ever seen. He made a flamboyant 183 against the likes of Muralitharan in a home series against the Lankans. He became a constant no.3 batsman and delivered on most occasions. He once reached very high peaks when he was the ICC no.1 batsman in the 2005-06 season. His unorthodox nature often drew flak,but he would answer all of those doubts with fantastic knocks.

His wicketkeeping skills were also widely appreciated by various quarters in World Cricket. But it did draw criticism from one of the best wicketkeepers India has ever produced,Syed Kirmani,who was quoted as saying,”I don’t like the way he stands on his heels while waiting for the ball to be delivered. A wicketkeeper should always be on his toes”. But he MSD received a lot of praises for his lightning speed reflexes especially during run outs. He has, to his name till date, close to 400 dismissals at the international level.

Captaincy

When most of the first choice players either opted out or were not considered for selection for T20 World Cup in 2007, a fresh and young team was sent to South Africa. Dhoni was made the captain for this tournament,and India had found their best potential skipper or potential best skipper. Dhoni began his captaincy with a bang by winning the inaugural T20 World Cup in a cliffhanger of a contest in the finals against arch rivals Pakistan. His decision of giving the last over to Joginder Sharma was widely criticised when Pakistan just needed 13 and he was not the best bowler in the line up. But it paid off, and then on, Dhoni has been hailed as the skipper who takes decisions based on instincts and man, his instincts are real good! There are still rumours that Joginder Sharma is Dhoni’s lucky mascot since both of them made their ODI debut in the same match.

Dhoni has been instrumental in Team India winning series all over the world, creating history and doing all of it, with giving due credit to his team members. He has a very cool head and is low on emotions on the cricket field. He allows his bowlers to set their fields, takes advice from senior members of the team. He is more a leader who holds the team into a well-knit unit than he is a dominating captain. The biggest feather in his cap came on April 2nd 2011, when India won the 2011 Cricket  World Cup, a dream come true for every Indian. Even Sourav Ganguly, considered widely up to be India’s greatest captain by many, has appreciated the feat and said that Dhoni is the best captain India has ever had.

IPL

Courtesy his meteoric rise on the international circuit, MS Dhoni became the highest priced player in the first installment of the IPL auction which was held in 2007-2008. He was bought at a whopping 1.5 Million USD over a period of 3 years by Chennai Super Kings(CSK) and they retained him for the 4th season as well. He has had a fantastic season as a player and as a captain at the franchise which has been IPL’s numero uno in the last two seasons. He has ensured that the team reached the final four in all the 4 seasons and winning the tournament twice. He also captained the CSK team to win the Champions League in 2010. Dhoni has a fantastic rapport with all his team members and even overseas players have heralded him as a fantastic person and a captain.

Nobody thought that there could be a competition for popularity to Sachin Tendulkar. But this man from Ranchi has overtaken Sachin by a huge margin and is the most sought after ambassador for most of the brands. His post match speeches are looked out for with huge interest. There is a grapevine that Dhoni’s leadership skills are going to taught at a management institute in India.

“Well,of course, at the end of the day”,e verything has to come to an end.  It is really difficult to stop writing about this phenomenon.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni.  Respect.  Happy Birthday.  Long Live.

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