In the late 90s and during Greg Chappell's coaching era, when heads were tumbling through the Indian team's turmoil, it seems all that Mahendra Singh Dhoni did was chalk out a plan on how things would change for the better. When granted the opportunity to lead, he showed himself ready and emerged as the solution to most of India's problems, enough to finally fulfill expectations of a long-suffering crowd of supporters.
An Adam Gilchrist-inspired Dhoni was drafted in 2004 to solve India's wicketkeeper-batsman crisis after the failure of the Rahul Dravid experiment. His start was anything but legendary - getting out for a duck. It was his fifth outing at home against Pakistan in 2005, where he stroked a blistering 148, making everyone sit up and take notice. A mammoth 183 to chase a high Sri Lankan total later in the year reiterated his value. By the end of 2005, Dhoni donned the all-whites to earn a Test cap against Sri Lanka. In the inaugural ICC World Twenty20 that followed, Dhoni was chosen to lead a young Indian side. Under his guidance, the team quickly turned disappointment to joy by lifting the coveted trophy, to the surprise of both fans and detractors. His ability to excel in leadership was quickly recognized and within a year, he was appointed as the Indian skipper in all forms of the game. Under Dhoni's captaincy, India posted successful Test series victories home (England 2008) and away against New Zealand (2009) and Sri Lanka (2009). Throughout his first five years as a Test player, India had lost only two away series, a record which helped them top the Test rankings. The biggest accomplishment of his career came in 2011 when he powered Team India to a remarkable World Cup victory with his extraordinary leadership skills. It was after 28 long years that India won the Cup, thanks to a bunch of hardworking and enthusiastic cricketers led by a young and exceptionally astute skipper. He played a captain's innings in the final against Sri Lanka, where his brilliant unbeaten knock sealed the most memorable victory for his team and country. Dhoni’s next adventures were probably his toughest as a skipper. Consecutive tours to England and Australia in 2011/12 were complete disasters as the team was whitewashed both times. Success in Tests continued to evade Dhoni even as he relished the shorter formats. A home series loss to England the following year put question marks on Dhoni’s leadership in the longest format of the game but he did have his way in 2013 when he inflicted on a touring Australian team, a 4-0 whitewash, making him the first captain in a long time to do so. That was followed by winning the ICC Champions Trophy in 2013 making him the only skipper to hold all the major ICC trophies - the T20 WC, the 50-over WC and the Champions Trophy. The ghosts of 2011 returned to haunt him in 2014 on India’s tour to England and despite a historic win at Lord’s, India went on to lose 1-3, further denting his overseas Test record. On 30th December 2014, having saved the third Test for India against Australia at the MCG, Dhoni announced his retirement from Tests with immediate effect citing too much strain as a captain as the reason, handing over the mantle to Virat Kohli. The 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup proved why he was such a tremendous captain in ODIs. Having failed to win a single game in the Tests in Australia and even the tri-series, the Indian team had a magnificent run in the mega event, winning all their league games and even the quarters, only to fall short against a champion Aussie side in the semis. They were on an 11-match winning streak in World Cups, broken only by that magnificent Clarke-led team. Dhoni gave up the captaincy of limited-overs teams in early 2017. In the twilight of his career, he still is a key figure in the Indian setup, often being the man that the current captain Virat Kohli looks up to in times of crisis. Apart from being an extremely inspiring leader for India, Dhoni also proved his mettle in franchise cricket by leading Chennai to multiple Indian T20 League titles, the last one being in 2018 and two Champions League T20 silverware (2010,2014). Chennai became the first side in the Indian T20 League to successfully defend their title. His team has been arguably the most consistent side in franchise T20 cricket across the globe. Though he may be aging, he is aging like fine wine and just getting better. When he decides to hang up his gloves, it will be the end of an era, one of the Golden eras that Indian cricket had seen under this legend from Ranchi.