It was the era of Australian dominance. Headed by Steve Waugh, and consisting of the likes of Adam Gilchrist, Mathew Hayden, Mark Waugh, Michael Bevan, Glen McGrath and Brett Lee (phew!). They were invincible for almost a decade. Until Sourav Ganguly decided it was enough. Flanked by one of the most formidable batting line-ups ever(Sachin, Sehwag, Dravid, Laxman and himself), wearing his heart on his sleeve, he heroically lead the team to new heights. Alas, that heart wrenching 2003 World Cup final loss accompanied by his own dwindling performances were the end of him.
When Mahendra Singh Dhoni burst into the scene in 2004/05, it was like Indian Cricket was waiting for someone like him. We did not have a regular wicket-keeper. Dinesh Kartik and Parthiv Patel did not live up to the billing. In the presence of Sachin, Sehwag and Dravid, a wicket-keeper who would double up as a middle order power-hitter and can finish the game was needed. Out of the 35 times that he has remained unbeaten, only once has it ended in a lost chase.
Rahul Dravid as captain was not working out very well. India, losing to Bangladesh, had crashed out of the 2007 World Cup in the group stages. Yuvraj Singh had not exactly turned out to be captaincy material. That was when Dhoni as a leader came in. His cool and calm demeanor, along with the ability to make crucial decisions right filled the void perfectly.
MS Dhoni has a meticulous sense of the game. He understands it perfectly. His ability to judge what is happening on the field, which bowler is out of rhythm on that day, how to upset a batsman with which bowler and his intrepidity in following through with these decisions -risks we call them- are phenomenal. But most importantly, as the Port of Spain knock showed, he understands his own game even better. He knows his strengths (power hitting) and his limitations (maybe, singles) and relies heavily on it. While we are anxiously contemplating what the next delivery might be, he is thinking way ahead of us.
In a cricket crazed nation as ours, it was Ganguly’s passionate, maybe too honest way of the game, both on and off the field that restricted him in taking the team even further. Dhoni, with his detached (his World Cup celebration), yet microscopic supervision of the game is perfectly what India had been waiting for.