Mahendra Singh Dhoni is a tactical genius. Although to the naked eye, he may appear as a bit of a gambler, the ones who have followed his career closely enough would agree that he wasn't so much of a risk-taker than a risk-assessor. Most of his assessment have been spot on and thus have given India some of its biggest moments in cricket. As the only captain to win the T20 World Cup, the 50-overs World Cup as well as the Champions Trophy apart from leading the Men in Blue to the number 1 rankings in Test cricket, celebrates his 40th birthday, here is a little throwback to Dhoni's best tactical moves, shared by the International Cricket Council (ICC).
1. India vs Pakistan - ICC T20 World Cup final 2007 - Hands Joginder Sharma the final over
This was the first of the many big decisions Dhoni had to make while he was the captain of the national team. However, again it was his reading of the game that was spot on. While many believe he took a risk by handing Joginder Sharma the ball to bowl the final over, the other option, Harbhajan Singh bowled a horror 17th over, conceding 19 runs and had gone for 36 in his 3 overs. Moreover, Bhajji would have been perfect for Misbah's preferred scoop shot which eventually led to his dismissal. Dhoni went ahead with Joginder with 13 runs in the bank and the rest as they say is history. India were crowned the first T20 World Champions.
2. India vs Australia - ICC 2015 World Cup semifinal - Brings on Ashwin against Maxwell
Although, India failed to defend their World Cup title in 2015, losing to Australia in the semifinals, Dhoni was splendid with his moves even in this fixture. As soon as Glenn Maxwell was beginning to look dangerous, Dhoni handed the ball to Ravichandran Ashwin who being an off-spinner had his stock ball coming into the right-hander. Moreover, MSD brought Ashwin from the end where the on-side was the bigger part of the ground and as the finger spinner bowled slower through the air, Maxwell went with his stroke which went straight down the fielder's throat. India, however, lost the match by 95 runs.
3. India vs England - ICC T20 World Cup 2012 - Comes up to the stumps to Irfan Pathan
Another such move was evident during India's game against England in the T20 World Cup 2012. While the batters were looking to step out of their crease and play their strokes, Dhoni came up to the stumps to keep them within their crease. Almost on prompt, Irfan Pathan got one to beat the stroke of Luke Wright the batter and he was adjudged Leg before Wicket (LBW). Not only did he obstruct the batter's free flow of the innings but that was also a bit of a mind game which he won.
4. India vs Bangladesh - ICC T20 World Cup 2016 - Sprints up to the stumps to affect run-out
Another iconic moment from MS Dhoni's captaincy came during a crunch India vs Bangladesh game in the 2016 World Cup. While they needed just 2 runs to win in the last ball, a single would have forced the game into a tie-breaker. However, MSD had anticipated the batters crossing over even if the batter doesn't make contact with the bat. Consequently, he had taken one of his gloves off and was ready for the challenge. Precisely, that's what happened with the batter failing to make a contact but Dhoni decided to sprint to the stumps to affect the run-out rather than throw which may have also caused an extra run for overthrow. In the end, Dhoni won the race with the non-striker and India remained well and truly alive in the tournament.
5. India vs UAE - ICC World Cup 2015 - Love affair with leg slip
Another thing that stood out from Dhoni's captaincy was his love with the leg slip fielding position especially when the spinners were on. During the 2015 World Cup encounter against UAE, Dhoni used this fielding position to give India a breakthrough. While R Ashwin was the bowler, he had placed a slip as well as a leg slip for the batter and eventually Ashwin got him caught by the catching position behind the wicket on the on-side.
6. India vs West Indies - ICC T20 World Cup 2016 semifinal - Hands Virat Kohli the ball
Yet again a superb assessment of risk. With the dew in effect at Wankhede, the spinners in the team were finding it difficult to grip the ball. Moreover, the pacers too failed to break the crucial partnership which was when Dhoni turned to Virat Kohli for a change and he delivered as he picked up a wicket off his first ball. However, despite him top-scoring and picking up a wicket, India failed to defend a score of 192 and West Indies later went on to be crowned champions.
7. India vs Australia - ICC T20 World Cup Quarterfinal - Field placing spot on
Dhoni was a master when it came to field placement especially when it was the slower ball bowlers. During the quarterfinal game against Australia in the ICC 2011 World Cup, Dhoni caught Brad Haddin in his trap with a great field setting for Yuvraj Singh. Haddin was tempted to go over the covers with the spin with one of India's sharpest catch-taker Raina stationed there. Eventually, Haddin mis-hit and Raina took a smart catch.
8. India vs West Indies - ICC T20 World Cup 2009 - Yusuf Pathan to get rid of Gayle
Against West Indies in the 2009 T20 World Cup encounter, although Harbhajan Singh had bowled a maiden over, Dhoni replaced him with Yusuf Pathan in the very next over. Seeing Yusuf into the attack, Gayle probably identified him as a weak link and tried to smash him out of the park but only managed to get a leading edge which went to the fielder to bring an end to his innings.
9. India vs Sri Lanka - ICC World Cup final 2011 - Comes into bat ahead of Yuvraj Singh
And the big decision on which so much has been written and talked about. Mahi opted to bat ahead of an in-form Yuvraj Singh in the World Cup final of 2011. However, yet again this was a great reading of the situation from the mastermind. Not only did Sri Lankan off-spinners were operating at that moment, who would have fancied bowling to two left-handers in the middle, Dhoni had also played them at Chennai Super Kings nets and had a fait bit of idea on how to face them. Dhoni finished India's iconic run-chase with a six that will go down in history as the shot that brought the maximum joy to people in India. A nation erupted, the God of Cricket had finally achieved his childhood dream, a cancer patient who was literally vomiting blood certainly felt a new life and a billion people suddenly believed that they could conquer the world.