Guts and glory!
Two words that are synonymous with former India captains Sourav Ganguly and MS Dhoni. While there is no doubting the greatness of the two leaders, the debate of who had a bigger impact on Indian cricket is not an easy matter to settle.
By their virtues and by stats as well, both Ganguly and Dhoni are two of India’s most accomplished captains. The duo revolutionised the game like no other. While Ganguly ruled the roost with his aggressive captaincy, Dhoni more calm and astute in a way he read the situation.
Ganguly built a team with a lot of self-confidence and oomph factor that went on to challenge some of the best oppositions in the world. Dhoni, during his reign as India captain went on to lead the side to three ICC trophies- 2007 T20 World Cup, 2011 ODI World Cup and 2013 Champions Trophy, a feat that is still unmatched.
In their contrasting yet effective ways, the duo took India to the very top of world cricket. So here’s the big question-which captain has had more impact on Indian cricket?
Ganguly & Dhoni: Contrasting styles
While Ganguly infused a sense of belief that India could match the best in their backyards and brought the much-needed winning mentality to the subcontinent giants, Dhoni’s calm and composed demeanour helped India seize some nerve-wracking moments in major ICC events and clinch the most-cherished piece of silverware in the cabinet, the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup on home soil.
Both Ganguly and Dhoni took over the reins in difficult times for Indian cricket. Ganguly assumed the mantle while Indian cricket was at its lowest ebb, surrounded by the match-fixing scandal with some of the biggest names in the dressing room involved with the bookies. While for the latter, the situation was hardly ideal as he was bestowed upon the reigns after the debacle of 2007 World Cup, where India were knocked out in the group stages.
Both Ganguly and Dhoni led from the front and by example. The duo, during their respective tenures never shied away from taking bold decisions in the larger interest of the team and also had a visionary approach in spotting the right mix of youngsters to build a team for the future.
While Ganguly, an elegant opening batsman, forged some match-winning knocks with Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag upfront, MS Dhoni applied the finishing touch par excellence, scripting numerous memorable run-chases with Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina.
Hence, Indian cricket can be grateful for the services of these two exceptional leaders and a core group, while gelled together to form highly functioning teams since the turn of the century.
Ganguly & Dhoni: Nurturing youth
As we delve deep in the captaincy styles of Sourav Ganguly and MS Dhoni, breeding through youngsters is a key component where the two of them excelled.
Ganguly built a fearless brand of Indian cricket which transformed Indian cricket, While Ranchi-born Dhoni made the Indian team a force to be reckoned with in world cricket.
Prince of Kolkata, as Ganguly was often called- had a vision like great leaders do. He quietly knew what kind of players he wanted in his team, and he even fought for them with the selectors.
Furthermore, he gave ample opportunities to the budding talent to showcase their skills. Ganguly knew how to take his players along with him and back them to the hilt.
Ganguly picked and chose his cards early, handing out debuts to Zaheer Khan, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammed Kaif, Gautam Gambhir, Irfan Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Virender Sehwag and MS Dhoni himself. That’s a scary load of talent, but Dada supported those players and moulded them into a winning unit. Imagine what would have occurred to that Eden Gardens Test in 2001 had Ganguly not backed Harbhajan?
Meanwhile, MS Dhoni knew what cards he should be playing and at what time. Dhoni handed out debuts to promising yet hungry players-who proved out to be match-winners for years to come. The spin duo of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah and Virat Kohli made took their bows with Dhoni at the helm of the team. Not just he helped them become better cricketers, Dhoni forged them into match winners. The world would have been robbed of a maverick in Rohit Sharma had Dhoni not backed him to open throughout Champions Trophy 2013.
Ganguly & Dhoni: Stats
Both Sourav Ganguly and MS Dhoni have led the Indian team with aplomb.
While Ganguly’s contribution to Indian cricket goes beyond mere numbers, MS Dhoni’s trophies vindicate the manner in which he led the team.
In overall winning percentage, MS Dhoni edges out Sourav Ganguly in both the formats. Ganguly has a Test winning percentage of 42.85 and ODI winning percentage of 52.05. On the contrary, MS Dhoni has a Test winning percentage of 45.00 and ODI winning percentage of 55.80.
In terms of trophies won, Ganguly shares an ICC champions trophy with Sanath Jayasuriya which took place in the year 2002, which is the only ICC trophy he has to his name. Dhoni, on the other hand, has been pretty much successful in ICC Events winning every possible trophy. Excluding T20 which Ganguly wasn’t able to captain, Dhoni under his captaincy was able to end the much-awaited drought of winning the world cup after 28 long years. In the year 2013, MS Dhoni’s men managed to win the champions trophy, and with that, he became the second captain after Ricky Ponting to win both ICC World cup and ICC Champions trophy.
Maybe stats will help to settle this debate, however, one can not overlook the amount of ‘match-winners’ the two gave to Indian cricket, to safeguard the team’s interest.
All in all, if one has to decide the best captain between Sourav Ganguly and MS Dhoni, it is next to impossible and their contribution to Indian cricket is inestimable. As the cliche goes – statistics are just numbers, which often hide more than they reveal.