MS Dhoni (left) and Sourav Ganguly during their Test playing days © AFP
MS Dhoni (left) and Sourav Ganguly during their Test playing days © AFP

The 2003 World Cup Final defeat still haunts the Indian team. They were walloped by the Ricky Ponting-inspired Australia at the Wanderers, Johannesburg, with Damien Martyn playing the ideal foil. Sourav Ganguly, who led India to the runners-up spot, laments the fact that MS Dhoni was not playing for India then. “I wish I’d Dhoni in my 2003 World Cup team. I was told that when we were playing the 2003 World Cup final he was still a ticket collector with Indian Railways. Unbelievable!” Ganguly wrote in his autobiography, A Century Is Not Enough.

As documented in Dhoni’s biopic too, Ganguly decided to include Dhoni in the Indian squad for the ODI series in Bangladesh in 2004. In his very second series, Dhoni slammed the 123-ball 148 against Pakistan to establish himself in the big arena.

“I had over the years constantly looked out for players who remain steady under pressure and possess the capability to change the course of the match. Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who came to my notice in 2004, was a natural progression of this thought. I was impressed with MS Dhoni from day one.”

“Today I am happy that my assessment was proven right. It is amazing how he broke through the ranks to become what he is today,” Ganguly further writes.

Watch Sourav Ganguly answer 38 off-beat questions; from
Watch Sourav Ganguly answer 38 off-beat questions; from "batting like Sachin Tendulkar" to "love tattoo"

Dhoni was leading India against Australia at Nagpur that turned out to be Ganguly’s final Test. Dhoni had requested Ganguly to captain the side during the end stages of the Test: “As the match came to a close, Mahendra Singh Dhoni in a surprise gesture asked me to lead. I had rejected his offer earlier in the day, but could not refuse a second time. But I must admit, at that stage, I found it difficult to focus. So after three overs I handed it back to Dhoni saying, it is your job, MS. We both smiled.”

If Ganguly is arguably regarded as India’s greatest captain, Dhoni ended being India’s most successful captain across formats.