Mahendra Singh Dhoni went on to become one of the best finishers in the game but on his 39th birthday, former India captain Sourav Ganguly said the World Cup winning skipper would have been even more lethal if he batted higher in the order.
Ganguly, the current BCCI president, led a barrage of birthday wishes for ‘captain cool’.
“He’s one of the great players of world cricket, not just a finisher. Everyone talks about the way he finishes lower down the order. I always believed that he should bat up the order because he was so destructive,” Ganguly said in a chat show hosted by young India opener Mayank Agarwal on BCCI’s Twitter handle.
“I’m happy that Indian cricket got a Mahendra Singh Dhoni, because he is unbelievable,” @SGanguly99 to… https://t.co/21nCQmfPGi
— BCCI (@BCCI) 1594106686000
Ganguly, who had handed Dhoni his international debut against Bangladesh on December 23, 2004, recalled how he rose to fame with his 148 against Pakistan batting at Number three.
“It was fantastic. If you look over a period of time in the history of one-day cricket, the best players can find the fence under pressure consistently. MS Dhoni was one of them and that’s why he was special.”
Asked whether it was him who picked Dhoni in the team, Ganguly said: “Ya that’s true, but that’s my job isn’t it? That’s every captain’s job to pick the best and make the best team possible.
“You go by your instincts, you go by the faith on that player that he’ll deliver for you. And, you know, I’m happy that Indian cricket got a Mahendra Singh Dhoni, because he’s unbelievable,” Ganguly said.
Dhoni was last seen in action about a year ago when he was run-out for 50 by a brilliant Martin Guptill throw that eventually ended India’s campaign at the 2019 World Cup.
He was set to make a much awaited comeback with the 2020 IPL in March but the event has been postponed indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Most of Dhoni’s India and IPL teammates, including Virat Kohli, paid glowing tributes to him on his birthday.
The International Cricket Council posted a video of the 2019 World Cup where Kohli, among others, said he immensely benefited from the “special partnership” with Dhoni.
“I don’t think anyone will ever be as good as him.” �️ WATCH: Virat Kohli, Ben Stokes and others on the incredibl… https://t.co/WFc6XWVOn0
— ICC (@ICC) 1594107022000
“He just enjoys every minute of being on field and our understandings been brilliant over the years because when I walked into the team the reason why he gave me chances because he believed that I played the right intention and I’ll do anything for the team together,” Kohli said.
“That’s why the partnership is so special and even off the field he understands me fully I understand him completely. And I’m always up for listening to his advice on the field and it helps immensely to have someone of experience around. He is always going to be my captain in my head,” said the India skipper.
Former India opener Virender Sehwag wrote “Once in a generation, a player comes and a nation connects with him, think of him as a member of their family, kuch bahut apna sa lagta hai. Happy Birthday to a man who is the world ( Dhoni-ya ) for his many admirers.”
India all-rounder Hardik Pandya spoke about the camaraderie he shares with Dhoni.
“Happy birthday to my Bittu (referring to Dhoni) from your Chittu. My friend who has taught me to be a better human being and stood by me in bad times @msdhoni,” he wrote on social media.
Kedar Jadhav, on the other hand, penned an emotional letter to Dhoni and described him as his “best friend, teammate and captain”.
Dhoni’s Chennai Super Kings and India teammate Suresh Raina was one of the first to wish him.
“Here’s wishing a very Happy Birthday @msdhoni! to one of my favourite human, brother & a leader I could ever ask for! The man who has always played with his mind and heart. Thank you for all the inspiration Dhoni Bhai.”
Former India batsman VVS Laxman hailed Dhoni’s composure and patience. “Many more happy returns of the day to a man whose composure and patience continues to be an inspiration,” he wrote.
Another CSK teammate, Dwayne Bravo, came up with a “Helicopter Song” that chronicles the former India skipper’s achievements in the game.
The charismatic Dhoni’s presence was not limited to cricket only as several sportspersons including two-time Olympic medalist wrestler Sushil Kumar led the birthday greetings for the most successful Indian skipper.