Sourav Ganguly and Ricky Ponting have underlined different qualities that made MS Dhoni the player he became. Ganguly, Dhoni's first India captain, felt promoting him to No. 3 early in his career was vindication of his batting talent. Ponting, meanwhile, lauded Dhoni's ability to remain calm and not let emotions rule his on-field decision-making as a leader.
Playing only his fifth ODI and batting at No. 3 for the first time, Dhoni made 148 against Pakistan in Visakhapatnam in April 2005, announcing his arrival in international cricket. Later that year in Jaipur, Dhoni smashed an unbeaten 145-ball 183 in a chase of 299 against Sri Lanka, once again from No. 3. It was at the time the highest ODI score in a run chase.
Ganguly said he took the decision to promote Dhoni up the order while captaining him in the Challenger Trophy in Mumbai in February 2005. Dhoni opened for India Seniors in that tournament, and made an unbeaten 96-ball 102 in a chase of 276 against India B.
"There was the Challenger Trophy, he (Dhoni) scored a hundred for my team while opening the batting, so I knew [of his potential]," Ganguly said in an interview with SportsTak. "He got the opportunity to bat at No. 3 in Vizag, scored a superb hundred and whenever he has got a chance to play more overs, he has scored big.
"A player is made when you send him up the order, you can't make a player by playing him lower down the order. I always believe you can't become a big cricketer by sitting inside the dressing room. The kind of abilities, especially the six-hitting prowess he had, was rare. He changed his game towards the end of his career but when the raw MS Dhoni arrived, it was very important to make him free."
Despite averaging a phenomenal 82.75 at No. 3, Dhoni only batted there on 16 occasions in ODIs, and only 18 times in the top three. Ganguly wished he had batted in the top order more often. "When I had retired, I aired my views many times, that Dhoni should bat higher up the order."
'He didn't let emotions get the better of him'
Ponting, meanwhile, has had the chance to both play and coach against Dhoni. The two were opposing captains 26 times in international cricket, while in the IPL, Ponting has coached both Mumbai Indians and Delhi Capitals against the Chennai Super Kings and Rising Pune Supergiant sides led by Dhoni. Through all these battles, Ponting has admired one quality of Dhoni's.
"He [MS Dhoni] never seems to let his emotions get the better of him, which is a really good trait in a leader -- as hard as I tried when I was on the field, I could never quite stay in complete control of my emotions." Ponting told news.com.au.
"Indian teams always seemed to lift when he was captain. He always seemed to have this knack to be able to get the best out of his players. You knew that he had things under control, and his teammates loved that about him.
"I spend a lot of time in India now, so I know how revered he is in that part of the world. Even when you travel around the world and you listen to cricket fans, they talk about Dhoni and his leadership and how calm he seems to be under pressure on the field."