Mumbai: Indian cricket, over the years, has been blessed with a plethora of brilliant captains. From Tiger Pataudi to Ajit Wadekar to Kapil Dev to Mohammad Azharuddin to the current era of leaders in Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble to MS Dhoni and now Virat Kohli, everyone has had their fair share of contributions in nurturing Indian cricket and taking it the highest pedestal of world cricket.
If you talk about the past 20 years, the likes of Sourav Ganguly and Mahendra Singh Dhoni have been the torchbearers of whirlwind change in Indian cricket. While Ganguly took India out of the mess that was the 2000 match-fixing scandal and rebuilt the team in the early years of the 21st century, MS Dhoni helped India break their final hoodoo and finally lay claim to the silverware- something that had alluded them for a long time.
Ganguly Promoting Virender Sehwag to the opening slot in Test cricket and giving Dhoni a chance to bat higher in the order
In the early 2000s, the Indian Test team was on a lookout for an opener, who could provide them with an ideal launchpad for the shenanigans of their famed middle-order to take over. Besides that, they were also grappling with how to adjust Virender Sehwag in the line-up.
Four years later, Ganguly did the same with MS Dhoni when he promoted him to the No.3 spot in an ODI against Pakistan. And, you know what happened after that.
Dhoni- Promoting Rohit Sharma to the top of the order in white-ball cricket
11 years after Ganguly pulled off a masterstroke by slotting in Sehwag as a Test match opener, MS Dhoni did the same with Rohit Sharma in white-ball cricket. Just like in the early 2000s when India were struggling to find a potent Test match opener, the Men in Blue were in the same conundrum as they headed into the 2013 Champions Trophy in England.
Ganguly- Backing Yuvraj Singh despite inconsistent results initially
One of the biggest qualities of a leader is that when he picks a talent, he backs it to the hilt rather than disposing it off after a few lacklustre performances. Yuvraj Singh remains a prime example of it. The left-handed swashbuckler had a whirlwind start to his white-ball career against Australia in the 2000 ICC Knockout when he shellacked the world champions to the tune of a match-winning 84.
Ganguly- Picking Harbhajan Singh in the 2001 series
The 2001 Test series between India and Australia proved to be a watershed moment for Harbhajan Singh. Harbhajan was going through a tumultuous time in the lead-up to that series. After having made his debut in 1998, he had spent the past two years in the wilderness.
Dhoni- Giving Joginder Sharma the final over in the 2007 T20 WC
“Bhajji wasn’t feeling a hundred perfect about his bowling, so I thought why not give it to someone who wants to do well at the International level rather than someone who isn’t confident” MS Dhoni when he was asked by Ravi Shastri in the post-match presentation as to why he chose to give Joginder Sharma the final over in the 2007 T20 WC Final against Pakistan.
Ganguly- Fighting tooth and nails with the selectors for Anil Kumble for the 2003-04 Australian tour
Anil Kumble wasn’t the first choice of selectors for the Australian tour? The reasoning that selectors gave was that ‘Jumbo’ does not take wickets outside the sub-continent and they wanted a left-arm spin of Murali Karthik to replace the champion leg-spinner. Enter Sourav Ganguly. The Prince of Kolkata fought tooth and nails with the selectors and even risked his job in order to have him in the set-up.
Dhoni- Promoting himself to No.5 in 2011 WC Final
There have been a lot of stories regarding this as to who came up with the idea of promoting Dhoni ahead of Yuvraj in the 2011 World Cup final. While it is obvious that senior players like Sachin and coachGary Kirsten would have played a huge part in the decision making, at the end of the day, if Dhoni wasn’t willing to take the mantle upon himself and spearhead his team to victory, don’t think that it would have materialized.