Experts reckon it is the end of an era.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who captained India in limited overs cricket for nine long years, has stepped down. “Captain Cool” as he was popularly known gives way to a new generation of players to be led by a brash, young Virat Kohli, who’s waited in the wings for a while.
But what Dhoni leaves behind is a rich legacy that is peppered with memorable wins, stunning surprises and some characteristic moments only he can stake a claim to.
After all, he is the only captain in the history of the game to have won all three major ICC titles.
We look at some of the highlights of his leadership over the years that helped Indian cricket scale new highs.
1. ICC T20 World Cup, 2007
It all started with this. Thrown into the fire with a completely new team and an unfamiliar format, the first time a T20 World Cup was being played, Dhoni retained his calm until the final moment of the tournament when he tossed the ball to an obscure medium pacer. It worked! Thus began Captain Cool’s journey. And the legend about the ‘Man with the Midas Touch’ was born.
2. Commonwealth Bank Series, 2008
Winning in Australia has always been tough for visiting teams. And India was no different, until Dhoni’s buoyant bunch triumphed over the mighty Aussies, winning two out of the ‘best-of-three’ finals. That was the first time India had won an ODI series Down Under. And Captain Cool added another feather to his cap.
3. ICC ODI World Cup, 2011
This was the crowning glory really. A cricket-crazy nation starved of a World Cup title for 28 years witnessed magic when Captain Cool hoisted a Sri Lankan pacer over the boundary. Dhoni’s still gaze belied the frenzy of 1.2 billion Indians. His unbeaten knock of 95 runs will be hailed down the generations. And that stunning final-ball six will headline cricket history books.
4. ICC Champions Trophy, 2013
The-then world champions India were favorites to win this tournament, sometimes known as the mini-World Cup, but a rain-curtailed final could have gone either way. Until captain Dhoni unleashed his ultimate surprise by handing over the ball to an unlikely spinner in the last over. India won. And became the only team to hold the ODI World Cup and the Champions Trophy titles at the same time.
5. Asia Cup T20, 2016
This now turns out to be the last of Dhoni’s major title wins for India. For the first time, the Asia Cup was being played in the T20 format. Dhoni, the commander-in-chief, and Kohli, his soon-to-be successor, took India home by beating hosts Bangladesh in the final.
Now, that we look back at the moment, it almost seems poetic. The present and the future came together. And the baton was being passed on that night.
As we celebrate Dhoni’s leadership and his service to Indian cricket over the last decade, the accolades and adulation continue to pour in.
Goodbye, Captain Cool. You were one of a kind.