The Rise of the Third Reich

Last Updated: Tue, Apr 05, 2011 05:06 hrs

There is a debate raging whether MS Dhoni is India's greatest captain or not.

But perhaps the better question to be asked would be: Can Dhoni become the world's greatest cricket captain of all time before he's done?

First Sunil Gavaskar went past 10,000 Test runs and breached Sir Donald Bradman's till then impregnable 29 centuries. Then Kapil Dev emerged as the world's leading wicket taker in the longer format of the game. Currently Sachin Tendulkar has made so many runs, centuries and records that it seems unlikely anyone will ever come near him.

So now why can't we aspire to have the greatest captain?

Dhoni is the best captain I played under: Tendulkar

For a start, how many captains in the world have captured all three crowns: Test, ODI and T20? The answer is just one. And that happens to be Dhoni. He is already in no man's land and a sort of pioneer. Add the IPL and Champions League trophy and his achievements already look formidable.

How many captains have won two world cups? Here he is in a wider league having Clive Lloyd and Ricky Ponting for company. Both of them perished after attempting their world cup third title and lost the aura of invincibility.

That will be Dhoni's challenge. Of course it will be made much easier made by the fact that there are two world cups and the T20 one comes once every two years. But despite that, a triple would put him in an elite league.

The 3-in-1 player

Of course the true road for greatness still lies in Tests. And it is here where Dhoni has already proved himself in his relatively short stint. His Test win loss record is 14-3, an unthinkable thing for an Indian captain before he took over. More importantly, he leads 4-0 against Australia and 3-2 against South Africa.

On the way he has accumulated close to 3000 Test runs at a decent average of 40, effecting 173 dismissals, closing in on Syed Kirmani.

It is interesting that not many people still think of him as an ODI batsman. In the World Cup final he went past 6000 runs at both an average (48.8) and strike rate (87.5) greater than Tendulkar. He has also spent more time on the ICC ODI No. 1 ranking than Sachin.

10 World Cup magic moments

A formidable feat considering he has been delivering on his captaincy too!

In ODIs he is closing in on 250 dismissals.

A great captain. A great wicket-keeper. A great batsman. He is a true 3-in-1 all-rounder and you could say that India plays with an extra man when they take the field.

He proved his mettle in the world cup final by smashing 91 off 79 balls.

No team had chased 275 in a WC final. No home team had ever won a world cup. No team had lost after scoring a century in a final.

And imagine losing your two greatest batsmen to be reeling at 31-2!

It is in this context that Dhoni's knock counts as among the all-time great ones.  

A long Test road beckons...

Of course, now is the tough part. Consolidation.

It is imperative that we win our series on West Indies and England soil. If we manage that, then the Australia tour will be extremely important. Both South Africa and England have beaten Australia in Australia. If we do that, we will be called the third great team after West Indies and Australia.

The Rise of the Third Reich

The First Reich was the West Indies. It was all about shock and awe. They had the meanest fast bowlers and the most fearsome batsmen. They just blew away all their oppositions.

The Second Reich was Australia. They were professionals to the core and won their battles in the strategies they made and their mental toughness vis a vis their oppositions.

World Cup 2011

Can India be the Third Reich? The other challengers, South Africa and Sri Lanka have fallen by the wayside. Pakistan has shot itself in the foot.

Right now we are miles ahead of the rest. The biggest challenge will be to stay ahead and continuously widen the gap between us and the rest.

But if it is anyone, then Dhoni is the right man to lead us there.

He has the calm, temperament and leadership skills to go past the likes of Steve Waugh & Co.

Sourav Ganguly and John Wright built the foundations of the Third Reich. Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble and Gary Kirsten took it to the next level.

Now it's wholly up to Dhoni to make India one of the greatest teams of all-time.

The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger.