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Two Tests, twin landmarks... Dhoni proves himself twice over

Last updated on: March 6, 2013 15:37 IST

Dhoni proves himself twice over

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Bikash Mohapatra

Even as India beat Australia comprehensively in the first two Tests of the ongoing series, MS Dhoni, had two personal landmarks to his credit, thereby confirming yet again that, at present, he is the best man to lead India, says Bikash Mohapatra.

'A big smile, eh,' said an Australian scribe even as MS Dhoni flashed his teeth before the camera, shortly after India thumped Australia by an innings and 135 runs in the second Test in Hyderabad on Tuesday to take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the four-match series.

-Dhoni is India's most successful Test captain

"Well, you had a chance to smile in Australia," responded Dhoni, tongue-in-cheek, referring to the 0-4 drubbing India suffered in the 2011-12 series Down Under.

It was after a long time that Dhoni could afford to flash that smile, one that was self-assuring, that typified contentment.

In fact, the captain who led Team India to the ICC World T20 (2007), the No.1 ranking in Tests (2009) and a second World Cup triumph (2011), among other achievements, had to endure a turbulent period since the culmination of the latter.

If statistics are the barometer to judge success or failure, suffice to say that 10 of Dhoni's 12 Test defeats as captain had come in that period.


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Dhoni took his share of blame

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The team suffered humiliation (read 4-0 drubbings) away to England and Australia back-to-back, the former costing them the top ranking.

What hurt more was the fact that India suffered a rare reverse at home when England came calling late last year -- Dhoni's first series defeat at home.

As captain he had to palpably shoulder the bulk of the blame for the abysmal performance put in by the team. Home wins against minnows West Indies and New Zealand did little to assuage his detractors.

Besides, his own form with the bat was under the scanner, the 31-year-old having not scored a Test hundred in 15 months.


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A magnificent 206

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Both the factors -- his poor form and the team's recent poor record -- had led many to question Dhoni's place in the Indian Test squad and, consequently, he was under increasing pressure to deliver coming into the series.

And deliver he did, scoring a magnificent 224 that hugely contributed towards India's comprehensive victory in the opening Test in Chennai.

It was a timely knock, Dhoni coming in to bat with India in a spot of bother chasing Australia's first innings total. By the time he was dismissed he had single-handedly taken the game away from the visitors, in the process becoming only the second Indian (after Virender Sehwag) to complete a double hundred in a day.


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Dhoni the captain

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It was his first 100-plus score since the 144 against the West Indies at the Wankhede stadium in November 2011 and also his first against Australia, a team he had previously struggled against.

No points for guessing, but it also happened to be his Test best, surpassing the 148 against Pakistan at the Iqbal stadium in Faislabad in January 2006. It was an innings that came when his career was in its nascent phase.

Besides, the innings helped him reach a personal landmark, surpassing both Sachin Tendulkar (217) and Sunil Gavaskar (205) and becoming the highest score made by an Indian captain.

If Chennai was a watershed Test for Dhoni the batsman, then the second Test in Hyderabad was a landmark game for Dhoni the captain.


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Dhoni overtakes Ganguly as most successful

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Even as India humiliated Australia by an innings and 135 runs to take an unassailable 2-0 lead, Dhoni achieved a significant personal milestone.

The win was the 22nd time he had led India to victory in the five-day format, making him India's most successful Test captain ever, besting Sourav Ganguly's longstanding record.

To his credit Dhoni reached the milestone in just 45 Test matches, having lost only 12. (For the record, Ganguly's 21 wins came in 49 Tests, 13 of which India lost)

He reached the milestone in less than five years since taking over as captain -- in the third Test against South Africa at Kanpur in April 2008.

Both the wins were crucial considering the fact that he lost the toss -- a key factor on Indian wickets -- on each occasion.


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Dhoni is the best man to lead India

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They came at a time when he was being criticised for his choices of players in the team, be it resting Pragyan Ojha, India's best bowler against England, and going ahead with an out of sorts Harbhajan Singh or persisting with a misfiring Sehwag.

It was a time when even the staunchest of supporters had written him off.

These two results, while silencing his many critics, have yet again proven that, at present, Dhoni is the best man to lead India.

As they say, nothing succeeds like success.

Dhoni might been a tad diplomatic when attributing his success to a 'collective effort', but deep within he has definitely realised that the successive wins against a top Test nation, coupled with a good showing with the bat, have helped considerably in regaining the confidence among fans and critics alike.

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