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Cricket World Rewind: #OnThisDay - Outlining MS Dhoni's contribution in India's 2007 & 2011 World Cup triumphs on his birthday

India's captain Dhoni
India's captain Dhoni
©Reuters

July 7, 1981 - MS Dhoni led India to the top of the Test rankings and oversaw India's 4-0 whitewash against Australia at home. But when you look back at his career on his 39th birthday, it is the one day World Cup victories that shine the brightest. Here is a look at Captain Cool's role in India's triumphs in 2007 and 2011.

 

2007 - a bolt out of the blue

 

India had crashed out of the 2007 ODI World Cup in the first round after defeats against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. The final of the World Cup was played on April 28 and the ICC World T20 kicked off on September 11.

With a gap of only four months between the two events, Rahul Dravid, who captained India in the ODIs, decided to give young guns a go in the T20 format which was initially perceived to be best suited for youngsters.

MS Dhoni was appointed the Indian captain as Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar decided not to participate in the tournament. Dhoni had made his international debut in 2004 and had way less experience than the likes of Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh who were also part of the squad. But, it was his ability to read the game and remain calm under pressure that got him the role.

 

 

Young players like Rohit Sharma, Robin Uthappa, Yusuf Pathan and Joginder Sharma were given opportunities. The team understandably didn't have many backers in the absence of the big guns.

As it turned out, India began their campaign with a win over Pakistan via a bowl out. Their campaign gained steam with victories over England and South Africa in the league stage.

As per team manager Lalchand Rajput, the boys gelled very well. The philosophy of the newly-appointed captain MS Dhoni was 'don't take tension, give tension'. This is the motto that helped the team focus all their energies on their game and not worry about the external clutter.

India went on to beat a star-studded Australia in the semi-final and Pakistan in the final to bring the inaugural T20 World Cup trophy home. Thus began a golden chapter in Indian cricket.

 

2011 - meeting the expectations

 

By 2011, Dhoni had matured. The Jharkhand-born cricketer had done a great job of leading the team to the 2007 T20 World Cup trophy but it was not actually his team then, as they say in cricketing lingo. But in 2011, you could distinctly see Dhoni's stamp over the side.

India had last won a world event in 1983 and it had been 24 years since Kapil Dev's miracle. The fans in the cricket-crazy nation were now restless for another World Cup trophy. That the tournament was played in India, only added to the pressure.

With the backing of the management, Dhoni was able to get the squad he wanted, played the playing XI he deemed best and made unorthodox bowling changes. Had the team lost, he would have had to take the blame.

 

 

With senior players like Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh and Yuvraj Singh in the playing XI, India's fielding had never been exemplary. But after a slow start to the competition, their fielding improved by leaps and bounds. In fact, the team saved 20-25 runs in the final against Sri Lanka.

Above all, there was the gamble to come ahead of Yuvraj Singh, the Man of the Tournament, in the final, that too during a chase. There were the tactical reasons of maintaining a left-right combination with Gautam Gambhir and combating the threat of Muttiah Muralitharan. But, the idea of the captain leading from the front was the most moving.

He got the job done with a signature move, a helicopter shot over long-on for six. The stroke was symbolic of Dhoni winning it for India, and winning it his way.

 

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