MS Dhoni made his India debut in 2004, and has since gone on to become one of the greatest cricketers and perhaps the best captain the country has ever seen. He has numerous collective and individual accolades to his name, such as being the only captain to win all three ICC trophies and having the most not-outs in ODI history.
However, MS Dhoni's impact transcends numbers and trophies. The man from Ranchi has revolutionised Indian cricket in more ways than one, many of which fans of the game might not have heard of.
In this article, we take a look at five things that might not have happened to Indian cricket if MS Dhoni, who turns 39 on July 7, had not captained the Men in Blue.
#5 Indian cricket might have hit a rut after the retirement of the 'Fab Four' were it not for MS Dhoni
When Sachin Tendulkar retired in 2013, 'The Fab Four' consisting of Tendulkar himself, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, and VVS Laxman had hung up their boots, leaving behind a gaping hole in the Indian batting lineup - a hole that had to be filled by captain MS Dhoni.
The former Indian captain also had to deal with the retirements of Virender Sehwag, Anil Kumble, and Zaheer Khan. However, not once have we seen the performances of the national side dip, and most of the credit for this has to be given to MS Dhoni.
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The 38-year-old has managed seamless transitions between the golden era of the 'Fab Four' to the current international domination spearheaded by Virat Kohli. This incredible spell of consistency was perhaps boosted by the T20 World Cup in 2007, MS Dhoni's first assignment at the helm of the team.
Incredibly, the Indian Premier League (IPL) might not have become the cash-rich extravaganza it is today if it weren't for the inaugural T20 WC win. MS Dhoni's brave calls and confident leadership paved the way for the spectacle that is T20 cricket, especially in India.
#4 India might not have become the incredible fielding side they are today
Immediately after winning the 2011 World Cup in spectacular fashion at home, MS Dhoni declared that India had to now look towards the future and plan for the next edition of cricket's biggest tournament. This claim was met with appreciation, because not many realised that this meant 'rotating' the seniors in the team - Tendulkar, Sehwag, and Gautam Gambhir.
The trio had played all games in the World Cup but now found themselves on the bench for some games as a result of one of the boldest calls by a captain in cricket history, considering the stature of these legends. However, MS Dhoni's process that started in the CB Series in Australia in 2012 has proven to be a masterstroke.
Players like Ravindra Jadeja, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, and Virat Kohli raised the standards of Indian fielding that had been distinctly sub-par until then, changing the culture within the team permanently. Even today, incredible fielders like Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, and Shreyas Iyer man the ropes, vindicating MS Dhoni's courageous decision.
#3 The rise of the Ashwin-Jadeja duo might not have been as rapid without MS Dhoni
Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja formed the backbone of India's tenure at the top of the Test rankings from 2016 to 2020. Both bowlers were in the top 10 of the Test bowling rankings throughout, even peaking with a 1-2 at the top.
This productive partnership might not have realised itself without the guidance of MS Dhoni, who captained them both in the IPL as a part of the Chennai Super Kings (CSK). Although India have had quality spinners waiting in the wings, the performances of Ashwin and Jadeja simply cannot be matched.
In Test cricket, the off-spinner has claimed 365 wickets in just 71 matches, while the left-arm spinner has tallied 213 wickets in 49 games. The duo perfectly complement each other in this alliance, with Ashwin's guile and flight accompanied by Jadeja's laser-sharp accuracy and consistency.
#2 Rohit Sharma might not have become the modern-day batting great he is today
Leading up to the 2013 Champions Trophy, Rohit Sharma's form was majorly under the scanner. When MS Dhoni promoted him to the top of the order in his comeback game, the decision was met with a lot of criticism due to Sharma's rather careless-appearing attitude towards batting.
However, MS Dhoni's move has now become one of the greatest in Indian cricket history. Since becoming an opener, Rohit Sharma averages over 55 - no one else is even close, with Hashim Amla next on the list with 49.89. He went on an incredible limited-overs run, culminating in a fruitful 2019 World Cup campaign, where he scored 5 tons.
The only man who has rivalled the Mumbai Indians skipper is a certain Virat Kohli......
#1 Virat Kohli might not have become MS Dhoni's successor as Indian captain
Virat Kohli's talent was never in doubt, given that he had led the Indian U-19 side to a World Cup triumph in 2008. However, he found himself out of the Test side after a rough patch against the West Indies in 2011, and it needed the complete backing of captain MS Dhoni to get him back into the Test side for the tour Down Under in 2012.
Kohli had a great series although the team was whitewashed, and was the only Indian batsman to score a century. MS Dhoni also backed the Royal Challengers Bangalore skipper during the latter's abysmal tour of England in 2014, where he scored only 134 runs in 10 innings.
Were it not for these brave calls by MS Dhoni, we might now be seeing a different man at the helm of the Indian team, and Virat Kohli might not have become one of the greatest cricketers to have ever played the game.
Speaking of the support he received, Kohli himself said:
"I don't think the selectors appointed me as India captain suddenly. They probably had MS Dhoni as a sounding board before giving me the reins. I believe Dhoni played a big role in me getting the India captaincy."
Also Read: 5 most iconic images of MS Dhoni