MS Dhoni’s five defining captaincy decisions and tactics

MS Dhoni World Cup 2011 Final Six

MS Dhoni’s resignation from captaincy ends a memorable chapter in Indian cricket. As a leader, he set a new benchmark and showed the way to the present generation — one that is fearless and expressive. The Ring Side View picks five memorable captaincy decisions and tactics from Dhoni.

Getting Joginder Sharma to bowl two crucial overs in the ICC World T20 2007

In his first tournament as captain, Dhoni showed that reputations mattered little and that he was ready to take tough calls in pressure situations. Leading a young pack to glory at the ICC World T20 2007, he was fearless and innovative. The matches that defined his captaincy were the semi-final against the world-beating Australians and the final against the arch-rivals Pakistan. In both matches, he handed the ball to the unfancied Joginder Sharma to bowl the important last over. He used RP Singh, his best bowler, to deliver the penultimate over and create the pressure and then threw it to Joginder. Australia had a mountain to climb and they couldn’t make too many in Joginder’s last. However, it got too close to comfort against Pakistan with Misbah-ul-Haq taking them within six runs of victory before essaying that fateful scoop. Dhoni’s captaincy had the last laugh!

Playing Ashish Nehra in the semi-final of the ICC World Cup 2011

The hosts India were favourites to win the ICC World Cup 2011 once they beat defending champions Australia in the quarter-final. However, the semi-final show-down against Pakistan was the crunch-game. Ravichandran Ashwin had decent outings against the West Indies and Australia and was expected to hold on to his spot. In contrast, Ashish Nehra was the country’s villain after he failed to bowl a tight last over against South Africa. Analysing the conditions, Dhoni backed Nehra to come in for the semi-final, providing the third seaming option to Zaheer Khan and Munaf Patel. Many were surprised, but Nehra’s spell of two for 33 played a big role in India’s victory.

Promoting himself in the batting order ahead of Yuvraj Singh in the World Cup final

On the big day, Dhoni took a call that was to define his career. In hindsight, it was braver than getting Joginder to bowl the final over back in 2007. Yuvraj Singh was India’s talisman in the ICC World Cup 2011, playing a dependable role with the bat and ball. Dhoni had a tricky time as a batsman, getting off to a few starts but no big scores. Chasing 275 against Sri Lanka in the final at the Wankhede Stadium, Dhoni promoted himself ahead of Yuvraj when they were 114 for three. He then essayed his greatest knock at the highest level, 91 not out off 79 deliveries on the big day. Victory was achieved with that trademark six over long-on — an iconic moment in Indian cricket.

Playing the tri-series final in the Caribbean in 2013

The remarkable thing about Dhoni’s career has been his fitness. Despite shouldering the burden of three important roles across formats, there were only rare occasions where he was injured. During the tri-series in the Caribbean, he missed a few games due an injury. However, for the final against Sri Lanka, he brought himself back. In tricky conditions, Sri Lanka got 201. India were on course at 139 for three but then started losing wickets. He batted for majority of the last 19 overs even as wickets fell at regular intervals. India needed 15 off the last over from a visibly nervous Shaminda Eranga. Even though India were nine down, Dhoni’s presence had put pressure on the bowler. Dhoni missed the first ball, smashed the next for a huge six over long-on, then bagged four and finished it with another maximum down the ground. His reaction was a mere wide grin!

The iconic run-out against Bangladesh in the ICC World T20 2016

The ghosts of losing to Bangladesh in a World Cup game still lingered as India faced a crucial battle against their neighbours at Bangalore this year. Again, Dhoni used his best bowlers in Nehra and Jasprit Bumrah before the last over to create pressure, with the final act left to the young Hardik Pandya. With 10 needed off the last over, Mushfiqur Rahim hit two fours to reduce Bangladesh’s ask to two runs off three balls. Bangladesh then had a brain-freeze as Mushfiqur holed out to mid-wicket. Mahmudullah followed off the next ball as he too found the man in the deep. With two needed off the last ball, Dhoni set his field, stood closer to the stumps and took one glove off. Shuvagata Hom missed, Dhoni collected and sprinted to shatter the stumps. Mustafizur Rahman was found short. India never looked in control of the game until the last ball.

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