Let’s face it. Before Captain Cool MS Dhoni came on the scene as skipper, Team India was mostly a pushover, except from time to time some flashes of brilliance to save the day from iconic players like Kapil Dev, Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and few others like Rahul Dravid or Virender Sehwag. The rest was a blip. Fans counted a draw as a victory against teams like Australia, West Indies, even England. The reason behind that was the non-aggressive kind of cricket that India played. The Indian players actually believed that cricket is a gentleman’s game and any show of emotion, whether it was aggression or even triumph, is prohibited – gentlemen they believed, did not go in for the kill. Needless to say, India won rarely, if ever, as the 70s turned into 80s and then 90s. Even turn of the century did not bring too much change in character. Indians were stupefied by the sight of a Sachin, Sourav, Sehwag century and the like.
It took the brilliance and determined no-prisoners-taken stance of Dhoni to change the Team India outlook – he was willing to get downright dirty over it. He never went on the backfoot, figuratively or literally. he played on the front-foot and smashed whatever came in the way – no excuses were handed out for losses. The man came like a messiah for the cricketing masses. The feeling rubbed off onto the Team India players who were much more willing to walk in the skipper’s footsteps and hit back at the opposition not just while they were fielding but also while batting. Sledging was returned in kind. And, what is special, the players even adopted a policy that mocked rivals through their actions – check out Ravindra Jadeja. And if you want in-your-face-type aggression, just look at Virat Kohli. The collective straightening of the spine of Team India has brought windfall gains. India is actually looking to win games through aggressive intent with bat and ball, rather than playing for draws. Dhoni got very creative with his critical decisions and now his successor Virat Kohli has shocked and awed in equal measure with some of his own.
Clearly, Dhoni’s pioneering efforts will go down as historic and, to the ever-lasting joy of the fans, Team India is going see a lot more trophies coming its way. Thank you, Dhoni.