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Top five achievements of Dhoni as India's limited-overs captain

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Top five achievements of Dhoni as India's limited-overs captain

The achievements of MS Dhoni as India's limited-overs captain are unparalleled as he remains the only captain to win all the three ICC major trophies. As a tribute to the great leadership, we bring to you his top five achievements as India's limited-overs captain.

After nine trophy-laden years as a captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni has finally called his time on India's limited-overs captaincy and we cannot be thankful enough to India's “Captain Cool”. Taking up the reins during the most difficult phase of Indian cricket, in September 2007 he transformed the Indian team into a formidable unit of world beaters. Not only did the Jharkhand Dynamite lead India to stupendous victories, he also ensured that Indian cricket goes through a smooth transition when his time as captain is up. Though we want to recollect every single match under the charismatic skipper, we have zeroed in on five of the biggest achievements under MS Dhoni's captaincy.

5. Reaching the finals of World T20 2014

As they say, sometimes it's not just about the destination but also the journey. And despite losing the 2014 World T20 final to Sri Lanka, Dhoni's leadership has always been about resilience and determination to bounce back rather than just a few moments of glory. Apart from the conditions of the sub-continent, there were few positives for India going into the tournament as they had faced two consecutive series defeats against South Africa and New Zealand as well as failing to do well in the Asia Cup 2014.

But India were suddenly a different outfit when the actual tournament started. They dispatched stronger teams such as Pakistan, Australia, Bangladesh with relative ease and entered the semifinals against South Africa undefeated. During the semifinal, Dhoni's nature as a selfless teammate was on display when he had the chance to finish the match with India needing 1 run from 9 balls, but played three dot balls to give the strike back to Virat Kohli for a deserved finish. However, the second T20 crown eluded India when they lost to a superior Sri Lankan team in the final. 

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Infuriated fans blamed it all on Yuvraj Singh for his slow-paced innings, but Dhoni's character as a leader shined through when he defended Yuvraj by saying, “When you talk about the anger among the fans, you need to notice that the individual is the one who is more disappointed than the fans. Nobody, really wants to play bad cricket. Let's get rid of it(the criticism on Yuvraj).” He finally concluded by saying, “It's a team thing, let's not talk about individuals.”

4. Commonwealth Bank Tri-Series 2008

Under Sourav Ganguly, India had turned into a strong One-day side but they often showed nerves whenever they reached finals of big tournaments. But that all changed in the CB series in 2008 when India played Sri Lanka and Australia in a tri-series. Dhoni led a young Indian side that was missing the likes of Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly after suffering a demoralising Test series defeat against Australia. While a decent performance was expected from them, the way the team played under their new ODI skipper was refreshing to watch.

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When beating Australia in their own backyard was considered to be an impossible feat, Dhoni's men made it to the final and won two of the three finals against the Aussies to clinch the trophy. While Sachin Tendulkar led the charge with the bat, it was young pacer Praveen Kumar who crippled the mighty Australian batting by claiming 6 wickets across two finals which gave a glimpse of what the Indian team was going to be under Dhoni. The radical fielding changes he made in the series were unheard of, his trust in youngsters was showing results with Rohit Sharma, Praveen Kumar and Robin Uthappa performing to their potential. Despite all the great cricket India played in the series, it was Dhoni's composed self on the field that made his moves unreadable for his opponents.

3. Champions Trophy 2013

With the image of Indian cricket being dragged through the mud due to the match-fixing controversy in the IPL, there were little expectations on Dhoni and India to win the 2013 Champions Trophy in the UK. In a tournament that was constantly interrupted by rains, India played crackling, high-octane cricket to entertain the fans. It was mostly down to Dhoni's decision to promote Rohit Sharma from the middle-order to a permanent opening role that worked wonders for India. With Shikhar Dhawan in red-hot form, the opening pair put up two century stands and two fifty-run partnerships to guide India to the finals. 

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After reaching the finals against England without losing a single match in the tournament, Dhoni showed his tactical ingenuity to steal the victory from the jaws of defeat. With Eoin Morgan and Ravi Bopara in full flow, England's victory looked imminent when Dhoni surprised everyone by handing the ball to Ishant Sharma who had already conceded 27 runs in 3 overs. But Dhoni proved the sulking detractors wrong once again, as Ishant removed both Morgan and Bopara in the space of three balls to turn the match in India's favour. Dhoni lifted the Champions Trophy to become the only captain to win all the three ICC major trophies—T20 World Cup, ODI World Cup and Champions Trophy.

2. World T20 2007

Indian cricket was in doldrums in 2007 following the World Cup debacle in West Indies earlier that year. Many eyebrows were raised when MS Dhoni was announced as the captain of the side for the inaugural T20 World Cup in South Africa. India had only played one T20 International prior to the tournament and the pessimism surrounding the Indian team lingered when the big three—Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly - opted out.

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But by the end of the tournament, everything seemed to change for the better when Sreesanth took Misbah-ul-Haq's catch off Joginder Sharma's final over. The World T20 victory of 2007 marked a new era while rekindling the faith in cricket among the Indian fans with MS Dhoni as their leader. It was an especially sweet victory as India defeated arch-rivals Pakistan in the nail-biting final. 

But it was more remarkable how India's new captain led them to the trophy. Unlike the other captains, he never showed frustration when there was a bad moment in the game, there was no air of a disciplinarian around Dhoni, but the calmness of a monk and a determination of a captain that kept the team's optimism high at all times. The bowl-out victory against Pakistan in the group stages, stunning victory over Australia in the semifinals and the team holding their nerve in the tense moments in the final--all bore the impact of a calm and composed leader in the dressing room.

After winning 1983 Prudential Cup, the 2007 T20 World Cup was India's biggest achievement on world stage. But, under MS Dhoni, Indian cricket reached its pinnacle by winning the ICC World Cup 2011 after 28 years while also breaking the tradition to become the first team to win the World Cup at home. Equally exhilarating for Indian fans was seeing the life-time dream of seeing Sachin Tendulkar hold the coveted trophy in his hands. Sachin being paraded around the Wankhede Stadium after that incredible win was mostly due to MS Dhoni's brilliant captaincy.

Despite being one of the favourites, India were expected to be eliminated during the quarterfinals when they faced defending Champions Australia due to few doubtful performances in the group stages. But India went from strength to strength first by knocking out Australia in the quarters, then thumped arch-rivals Pakistan in the semifinals and entered the finals against Sri Lanka with the strong home support behind them.

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Even though the team were doing brilliantly, Dhoni's batting was still being criticised by many. But once again, the skipper proved everyone wrong. Promoting himself up the order ahead of the in-form Yuvraj Singh, Dhoni played a match-winning knock of 91 not out under immense pressure and finished off the final with a huge six. Who can forget the image of Dhoni twirling his bat with his eyes gazing dreamily as the ball sailed into the stands? When his Indian teammates including the legendary Sachin Tendulkar shed tears of joy as India lifted the World Cup,  Dhoni was standing with a calm smile on his face humbly giving all the credit to his teammates for making the incredible dream come true.

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