It’s a tour that has stretched him to the limit and tested his resolve like never before. The batting line-up has failed, the bowling unit has flopped and the team’s fielding has been listless. To add to his woes, majority of his first-choice players have dropped out with injuries. When there has been a hint of gaining control, the weather gods have conspired against his team.
A lot of people have been left astounded at how Mahendra Singh Dhoni is still standing at the end of two months of this extremely taxing sojourn. After the unrelenting, nerve-wracking experience of the Test series many expected the captain to be the first casualty.
If enduring the humiliation of defeat in each Test was not enough, Dhoni saw his team’s one-day hopes jolted on the first day itself with a double-injury blow to Sachin Tendulkar and Rohit Sharma. When his team posted a challenging total and took control of the game at Chester-le-Street, he watched helplessly as rain rescued England.
In the same game, he had the chance to escape the pressure-cooker situation when he picked up an ankle injury. He chose to battle on; playing back-to-back fighting innings at the Oval and Lord's to ensure England don't have it easy.
Dhoni has had all success as a captain -- the World Twenty20 title, the World Cup triumph and the No 1 rank in Tests. But this series has been a test of character. While he didn't convince all the experts with his cricketing judgment, he has proved that he is not a captain who will abandon a sinking ship.
It's creditable the way he has fought England's might with a second-string side in the ODIs. England narrowly scraped home in the 3rd ODI, and at Lord's it was a tie. Dhoni led from the front in both, scoring 69 and 78 not out respectively — both innings have come battling injury (he was limping after the Oval and Lord's games).
He is learnt to have confided in a friend, ‘itna kharab time bhi life mein dubara nahin aata hai (such bad time can’t come again in life); I want to face it and will stretch myself till I can’. While his style of captaincy can be debated, he has endeared himself to the cricket fraternity by showing the stomach for fight.
“With so many of the players injured, I am proud of the way he got his team play in the last two games,” said ICC cricket committee chairman Clive Lloyd, after naming Dhoni the captain of the ICC ODI Team of the Year.
“He doesn’t have much to work around with; he is doing a fine job with limited options. I think he is very studious. The good thing is you see the players playing for him, they play for their captain, he is that kind of a charismatic player,” added Lloyd, one of the most successful captains in the game.
“He won the World Cup, and that is no mean feat. He is the first captain to win a World Cup while playing at home. In the final, he judged the situation well and planned the innings well. He did it for the team.”
The rain-forced tie at Lord's left Dhoni frustrated as a win would have kept alive India's hopes of levelling the series. Both teams were ahead on the Duckworth-Lewis rule at two interruptions before the decisive third.
“We just saw the ugly side of cricket. Whichever team has the upper hand, doesn’t want to play. Whichever team is not on the winning side will stick around, and even play football. That’s what people do and that’s what both sides did,” Dhoni told reporters.