Barring Sachin Tendulkar, MS Dhoni is arguably the most popular and definitely the most scrutinised cricketer from India. He has done so coming from the cricketing backwaters, the mining state of Jharkhand, and through a home-made batting and wicketkeeping technique, and a style of captaincy that scales the highs and lows of both conservatism and unorthodoxy. Under Dhoni's captaincy, India have won the top prize in all formats: the No.1 Test ranking for 18 months starting December 2009, the 50-over World Cup in 2011 and the World Twenty20 on his captaincy debut in 2007.
Dhoni, then a ticket inspector with the Indian Railways, had escaped all attention bar the odd whisper among the followers of club cricket in Kolkata until he was 23 when he blasted two centuries in a triangular 50-over tournament for India A in Nairobi in 2004. Long-haired and fearless, he soon swaggered into international cricket, and became an instant darling of the crowds with ODI innings of 148 and 183 within a year of his debut.
Dhoni demonstrated all that was right with the new middle-class India. He didn't respect reputations, but never disrespected. He improvised, he learned, but didn't make an apology about his batting style, which was not the most elegant. He still batted with low, hockey hands, he still didn't look elegant but became a multi-faceted ODI batsman, one who could accumulate, one who could rebuild, and one who could still unleash those big sixes.
Along the way Dhoni showed leadership skills, which were recognised when Rahul Dravid gave up captaincy in 2007. Just before that announcement from Dravid, Dhoni had taken a bunch of kids to South Africa and was leading India to a World Cup win in a format the country didn't even take seriously. The ODI captaincy was natural progression, and Anil Kumble just kept the seat warm in Tests for a year.
Dhoni brought to captaincy a thick skin and relative indifference to results that an Indian captain needs to keep the job for long. Along with coach Gary Kirsten, he put his senior performers in a comfortable place, and they returned the favour with some of their best years in international cricket. #doni #indiancricket #bestcaptain