Objective examination of Mahendra Singh Dhoni's legacy

Beating the then mighty Australia twice in hard-fought finals wasn’t a fluke. Against all odds, MS Dhoni pushed a relatively-raw team to trounce the World Champions in their own den in March 2008 Getty Images

By Madan Mohan


This time last year, Team India had won the World Cup, breaking a 28-year drought. And if there were any doubts thereafter on whether they would wear their crown well, the team has done more or less everything it could to prove Doubting Thomases right.

Not that the doubt was ill founded. Briefly, the World Cup victory helped prop up the image of India as a world beating, world class unit, laying waste to all opposition in its path. In truth, the World Cup was a potent springboard from which to build a great legacy of triumph, nothing more and nothing less. So it did not take long to dispel the rather far fetched notion of India emulating the deeds of Steve Waugh s Aussies or Clive Lloyd s West Indies.

So, rather than lamenting how the mighty have fallen, now is a good time to burst some balloons and accept some unflattering realities. Naysayers were hushed in April 2011 because there was a festive mood all around and the last thing people want when they are celebrating is a reality check. Now that the team has duly crash landed with a whimper, it is a little easier to examine MS Dhoni s legacy more objectively.

The fact is that India, under Dhoni, did not exactly build a mountain of thumping overseas victories and was not a ruthless One-day International (ODI) unit either. Yes, the team got to No.1, but the ranking was obtained on the back of a string of home victories. A few overseas trips to tough cricketing nations brought the ranking back to a more realistic level.

The greatest overseas Test triumph the team achieved under his leadership was the series victory in New Zealand in 2009. And, lest we forget, New Zealand had India battling to save the second Test of the series. India gave a better account of themselves than was expected in South Africa in 2010-11 but a series victory eluded. India did not even register a series win in Sri Lanka, for that matter. Yes, trophies earned in familiar home conditions are mostly what we can reflect on proudly.

Things have not been very different in the ODI format. India lost an ODI rubber in South Africa and lost the Asia Cup in 2008. India also did not fare well in the ICC Champions Trophy in 2009. Other than the World Cup 2011, the most significant achievement in ODIs for Team India under Dhoni was the Commonwealth Bank Trophy won in 2008.

Yes, let it not be said that Dhoni was always a poor captain. A captain may not be a very good tactician, but he may be a great motivator and leader of men. To claim that beating the then mighty Aussies twice in hard fought finals was just a fluke would be delusional. Against all odds, Dhoni pushed a relatively raw team to trounce the World Champions in their own den. In my opinion, which I fear may not be a very popular one, it was an even more tremendous achievement than the World Cup for it was achieved against the odds.

As his tenure extended, Dhoni has struggled to inspire the team to the same extent as he could in the 2007 World Twenty20 or the 2008 edition of the CB series. In retrospect, the World Cup was a last -gasp effort to summon that indomitable spirit yet again. The team was already drained and some of its members were carrying injuries. But they pushed for one (possibly) last memorable triumph.

And that, perhaps, is how we should remember the World Cup 2011 triumph. It was no confirmation of India s might or an arrival of future kings. Not entirely unlike the 1983 World Cup victory, it was, really, a triumph of desi jugaad. Expectations of better days were built on a false premise because the triumph was achieved through efforts that may not be replicated.

Don t be proud. Be grateful, instead, that like your parents, you witnessed a World Cup victory to cherish for the rest of your life. The next one will be a long time coming.

(Madan Mohan is a 26-year old chartered accountant from Mumbai. The writing bug bit him when he was eight and to date, he has not been cured of it. He loves music, cricket, tennis and cinema and writing on cricket is like the icing on the cake. He also writes a blog if he is not feeling too lazy at http://rothrocks.wordpress.com/)