MS Dhoni is the greatest Test wicket-keeper that India ever had with a good 294 dismissals. Not many dispute that. What is not discussed as much is his utility as India's No. 7 Test batsman.
Dhoni made 4876 Test runs at a very useful average of 38 with six centuries. He's probably the greatest at No. 7 too.
Dhoni has an amazing Test win-loss ratio of 27-18 as captain. In fact till his last Test he had captained he had won 27/122 Test victories that India has had since 1932 and that's a whopping 22% by one man alone!
More importantly he was the first to take India to the ICC No. 1 Test rankings.
Add to the fact that he had just one victory against Bangladesh-Zimbabwe (Sourav Ganguly had 9!) and you realize how special he was. Captain of the only tied series on South African soil in 2010 (we've lost all the others) and the second after 1968 to win on New Zealand soil.
And yet Dhoni never got respect as a Test player. Critics frequently questioned his place in the team and today all anyone remembers is his 2011 0-8 overseas Test debacle.
In that our legendary batsmen Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir couldn't even draw a single Test between them.
Dravid quit on his own terms, Laxman went abruptly (even that was blamed on Dhoni at the time), Sehwag and Gambhir were dropped and Tendulkar continued playing despite the fact that he was the worst performing batsman of the team in his last years.
But 0-8 stuck on Dhoni alone.
He faced flak for the early exit of the Indian team in the 2007 ODI World Cup too. All the above legends failed. Dravid chose to bat on a treacherous pitch with Bangladesh (the seniors wanted batting practice said one report) and crashed to 191 all down to lose the match.
And yet, it was Dhoni's house that was stoned by irate fans. In fact it wasn't even the only time. There were at least 4-5 stone pelting scares at Dhoni's house in all. After the first stone pelting incident, Dhoni captained India to wins in the 2007 T20 World Cup, the 2011 ODI World Cup and the ICC Champions Trophy in June 2013.
And guess what? There was stone pelting at Dhoni's home within months of the glorious hat-trick in October 2013 despite all of the above.
So did we lose that match thanks to Dhoni? No. It was washed out. So why did the fans pelt stones? Because they were irked that Dhoni won the toss and elected to field! The flak that Dhoni receives defies logic.
Then there was the long-drawn court case where Dhoni played god on the cover of a magazine and at one stage he was even served with a non-bailable arrest warrant, which he luckily got out of.
Team-mate Yuvraj Singh's father Yogaraj said, "Dhoni was nothing. He has become a God in cricket just because of media... Honestly, if I were a media person, I would have slapped Dhoni... Dhoni is arrogant. The way Ravana's proud came to an end, Dhoni will also suffer some day. He considers himself much above Ravana… God will do justice…"
Where did that come from?
But it continues. In August this year Chairman of Selectors MSK Prasad talked of looking for alternatives to Dhoni in the run-up to the 2019 ODI World Cup. This despite the fact that Dhoni's wicket-keeping is still lightning fast behind the stumps. This despite the fact that Dhoni is still among the greatest finishers of all time, hitting the maximum number of winning shots and last ball sixes for India.
This despite the fact that a 36-year-old Dhoni still passes all of Team India's fitness tests with flying colours—ahead of even many youngsters.
In fact Suresh Raina (30) and Yuvraj (35) were the ones to fail these Tests.
Thankfully captain Virat Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri emphatically said that Dhoni would be there for the 2019 World Cup.
The Dhoni-Kohli chemistry is a sight to behold and the latter clearly loves taking advice from the former. Sometimes Dhoni takes full charge and Kohli looks on approvingly.
However still reports of a rift keep surfacing and Kohli has to keep making statements that he has absolutely no problems with Dhoni.
And now they're at it again. It started after the second T20 with New Zealand. While Kohli as usual was the star of the show with 65(42), everyone else failed. Chasing 197, we had Shikhar Dhawan 1(6), Rohit Sharma 5(6), Shreyas Iyer 23(29) and Hardik Pandya 1(3).
But the focus was on Dhoni's 37-ball 49. Dhoni "lost" us the match. He trended on Twitter all night and there are still calls for him to retire from international T20s.
Dhoni is the greatest accelerators in the game and that was one of those rare occasions where he simply failed to accelerate at the end. And yet, now his whole career seems to be at stake.
Again, for the umpteenth time, Kohli has had to come to his defence. Declared he, "I don’t understand why people are pointing him out. If I fail as a batsman three times, no one is going to point fingers at me because I am not over 35. The guy is fit. He is passing all the tests. He is contributing to the team in every tactical way on the field. With the bat, he did really well against Sri Lanka and Australia."
Interestingly we won the T20 series with New Zealand (despite the fact that we had never beaten them in a T20 before this series) and have remained unbeaten for 1000+ days in an international bilateral series featuring at least 2 completed matches. And still our fans are not happy!
Dhoni is the greatest shorter formats captain the world has ever seen and the greatest ODI finisher to boot.
He is India's greatest wicket-keeper and has been our best Test No. 7 batsman.
From 1975-2017 India has won just 4 ICC tournament finals. Dhoni has captained India in three of them. More importantly, he is still in form and fighting fit.
But yet the burden of proof remains on the shoulders of the greatest champion India has ever seen.
It's the curse of the unbearable burden of being Dhoni.