Mumbai: Mahendra Singh Dhoni has climbed the ladder of success with rapid strides, first as a player and then as the Indian cricket captain. After winning the World Twenty20 and guiding India to the top of the Test table, the effervescent Dhoni on Saturday night led India to World Cup glory.
And he did that in style, promoting himself up the order to score a strokeful unbeaten 91, and making sure that the team crossed the line chasing the biggest ever target in a World Cup final. It was a truly captain's knock, soaking in the pressure and the expectations of a billion fans; an innings that will go down as one of best World Cup knocks ever.
A courageous knock indeed, as the team chased a tough 275 and lost the key wickets of Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar at the top. Dhoni shared a crucial 109-run fourth wicket partnership with Gautam Gambhir (97) and then in the company of the Player of the Tournament Yuvraj Singh, saw his side home.
A calculative Dhoni would never lose sight of the asking rate and boldly took on the bowlers whenever he needed to step up the attack.
"Batting second is a lot of pressure, but Gautam Gambhir and Mahendra Singh Dhoni played outstandingly. They played like it was a normal game. We batted like champions," said Yuvraj.
Dhoni later said he took on the challenge as he wanted to prove a point to himself.
"In the earlier games, I let the youngsters come up the order so that they can get an opportunity to bat and also I wanted to be around when the pressure was the maximum. But I guess the pressure got to me more often than not," Dhoni said.
"In this game I wanted to bat up the order and Gary backed me and so did the senior players. I had a point to prove to myself and to no one else," he said.
That is the way the debonair Dhoni played his cricket and captained the team. Guts and gumption, backed by his cricketing instincts, make him a street-smart cricketer.
Never shy of taking brave decisions on the field, Dhoni has evolved as a captain and made a quantum leap as the leader of the World Cup squad.
Leading India for the first time, Dhoni won the Twenty20 World Championship in 2007.
Under his leadership, India achieved the number one Test team status for the first time, dethroning once invincible Australia.
On Saturday night, Dhoni created a new niche for himself in Indian cricket history, by becoming the only captain to lead the country to two World titles. Kapil Dev had lead the team to World Cup victory in 1983.
With his feet firmly on the ground, Dhoni knows the pressure that comes with captaincy and the fickle nature of Indian cricket.
"I am really happy to have won. It was very important for me to be on the winning side as people would have begun to question a few decisions I took for the final.
"First, they would have asked why I brought Sreesanth in for Ashwin and why I promoted myself up the order ahead of an in-form Yuvraj. I think that's what pushed and motivated me to do well today," Dhoni said.