Mahendra Singh Dhoni, a name that has now become synonymous with leadership and success in the cricketing world. He has been one of the most fascinating as well as intriguing of the players that have come up in the last five years.
It is hard to imagine that the hippie with long hair and unconventional batting style two years ago and the calm, calculative and shrewd captain of Team India now are the same person. Such has been the transformation.
This transformation has coincided with the rise of Team India and even to the layman this is no mere coincidence. MSD has completely transformed Team India's approach to the game and has taught the team how to win.
How else can one explain the presence of one of the best opening pairs in ODIs (Sachin & Sourav), some outstanding batsmen like Yuvi & Sehwag, a decent bowling attack comprising Zak, Bhajji, Agarkar et. al. in Team India and still not have a good record to boast of?
How else can one justify the fact that a test line-up comprising The-Big-Four-of-Indian-Test-Cricket had a dismal record abroad?
Talent has never been scarce in India. There has been a dearth of leaders that believe that the team is bigger than the players. This is one major point that sets MSD apart from all previous captains.
He lets his guys do their jobs, gives them a hint or two, gives them all the credit for good performances and accepts collective responsibility for the bad ones.
He's yet to get into any controversy nor has he let his success get to his head. Not a single person from the selection committee or the board have criticised him. He is the darling of the media too (which is an achievement in itself).
MSD knows whats makes people tick. All the players will swear by him. When MSD says something, it is accepted not because they have to but because they believe in his judgement of the game.
He's a talented player himself—an aggressive bat and a competent 'keeper— but his intelligence is so immense that he ensures that he does not overshadow his star players.
A case in point is his complete support for Yuvi, who some may consider to be (have been) his rival for the post of the captain of Team India. By supporting Yuvi, MSD has ensured that one of the biggest stars remains committed and delivers to his potential. And thus, Yuvi has blossomed into a decent test player despite his nightmare down under.
He routinely sends other players to press conferences. He channelises the new-found Indian aggression to good effect while not indulging in any verbal duel himself.
MSD, in many ways, is the messiah that Indian cricket has been waiting for. It is early days yet and MSD may not live up to his awesome successes so early in his captaincy. But he's a man firmly grounded on reality. He will get the best from what's available.
He has redefined Team India from a bunch of fantastic individual players to a ruthless team focused only on one goal—victory.
Fancy this: Yesterday, Sri Lanka at one point required 32 off 24 with four wickets in hand and a batsman batting at 84. India managed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Indian teams of the yore would have lost 9/10 times but not any more.
There are so many more such instance in the recent past—test matches against Aus, Eng—where India have come from behind to win.
It's hard to deny that MSD will eventually be reckoned as one of the greatest captains of all time.