The wait is finally over. After 28 long years, India finally laid their hand on the ICC Cricket World Cup. During the miracle run in 1983 it was Kapil Dev who led the troops to glory and this time it was Mahendra Singh Dhoni who led from the front and helped India achieve their dream.
The Indian team had a billion hopes resting on their shoulders, and they made each and every Indian proud on Saturday night as they became the first host nation to lift the world cup.
While Sachin was ecstatic, another legend, Muttiah Muralitharan, had lost his second world cup final in a row. It was heartbreak for the Lankans while Indians all around the world, including me, were bustling and jumping around in joy and excitement.
The best part of this victory was that it was not just cricket fans that were ecstatic, but it was every Indian who basked in the moment of glory.
I was not even born when India won the World Cup in 1983, and for the current generation this trumps all achievements, whether it is the T20 Championships or the ascendancy to the top of the ICC Test rankings.
The man leading the Men in Blue among all this was Dhoni. Ever since he was appointed as captain of the national side for the T20 Championships back in 2007, there has been no looking back for him.
The man seems to do no wrong. From winning the World Cup to becoming the No. 1 test team in the world to lifting both the IPL and Champions League with Chennai Super Kings, Dhoni has done it all.
With yesterday’s win, Dhoni goes down into the history books as the greatest captain to play for the country.
Even before this victory, Dhoni had led the team to the pinnacle of test cricket and had won the inaugural T20 Championship. But his greatest achievement to date is winning the World Cup for a nation that has longed for this moment for 28 long years.
During the start of his career it was hard to imagine him going onto become India’s captain. In those days he had the reputation of being reckless.
But after the debacle of the 2007 World Cup he was made captain of an inexperienced Indian side for the T20 World Cup in South Africa and despite all odds and surprisingly he led India to glory.
It was in November 2008 that he was appointed as captain of all three formats after being appointed as ODI captain in September 2007.
He became the first Indian captain to win a bilateral series against Sri Lanka and New Zealand in away territory, and won a tri series in Australia for the first time after triumphing over Australia and Sri Lanka in early 2008.
But it was as test captain that Dhoni soared great heights. He has a series of achievements that are unmatched among all Indian captains. He became the first captain to draw a test series in South Africa when they drew the series 1-1 with the Proteas in 2010-11.
He led India to a whitewash against the mighty Australians in 2010 at home.
But his greatest achievement was reaching the top of the ICC Test Rankings when India climbed to the top in December 2009. Sourav Ganguly, Mohammad Azharuddin all failed in taking India to the top but captain cool, MSD succeeded in taking India to the top.
While the popularity of test cricket may be diminishing in recent times, hardened cricket fans, analysts and ex-cricketers still see it as the ultimate form of the game that brings out the best in the player. To take India to the top is a remarkable feat, and the fact that India is still on top of it is testimony to Dhoni’s consistency as India’s captain.
Despite all this Dhoni added another title to his resume and this may be the most illustrious one: India are World Champions. Going into the tournament, India were the favorites and had the hopes of the entire nation resting on their shoulders. But this time India did not wilt under the pressure but instead rose to the occasion and lifted the trophy.
Throughout the tournament India had immense pressure to end the curse and in my opinion there was no better man than Dhoni to lead them. He is calm, composed and always has a trick up his sleeve.
Throughout the tournament we were witness to some inspired changes that changed the course of destiny and brought India glory. Some of these include persisting with Nehra in the crunch semifinal when all sense pointed towards Ashwin getting the spot. Instead Nehra bowled the spell of his life and redeemed himself and his captain. All this despite him admitting to reading the pitch wrongly.
Throughout the tournament his bowling changes worked magically like in the semifinal when he brought back Bhajji to snare the dangerous, Umar Akmal. His field placements too were perfect most times and he hardly put a step wrong.
Then there is the biggest one of the lot, promoting himself up the order in the final and what a move that turned out to be! He formed a great partnership with the 2nd Wall, Gambhir and together they took India to the brink of glory.
India have shown this time that they are susceptible to collapse any moment but Dhoni’s sensible yet smart power hitting saw India cruise home in the end. His "man of the match" 91 saw India home and assured that this time there would be no collapse.
While his gamble with Sreesanth might have backfired, it did not prove to be too costly at the end of the day.
Ganguly and Azharuddin are two other great captains but both failed to achieve this kind of consistency and balance within this side. Kapil Dev might have lifted the World Cup but he India were never such a force those days as they are now.
Dhoni has proved to be a bold risk taker that brings out the best in his players which is characterized in Yuvraj's return to form.
Amidst all this his batting has remained fairly solid despite a few ups and downs. But it is in his batting that we can all see why he is the greatest captain of all time.
Being India’s captain is no mean feat and with it comes immense pressure from the fans. He could no longer afford to be the reckless, hard hitting batsman of old. Since his captaincy he has added a sense of maturity and composure to his batting that has proven to be brilliant many a times.
He has curbed his natural tendency and now looks to play for the team and not just for the fans. He has led from the front and has always risen to the occasion.
Dhoni may not have the passion of Ganguly but his calm and composed presence has proved to be the catalyst in India’s glory run and all this goes to show beyond doubt that he is truly the greatest Indian captain of all time.