The spectacular arrival of Virender Sehwag was bound to inspire others to bat with the same mindset. But the odds of a clone emerging from the backwaters of Jharkhand, whose state side has consistently scraped the bottom, was highly remote. That was until Mahendra Singh Dhoni arrived.
He can be swashbuckling with the bat and secure with the wicketkeeping gloves. His neck-length hair adds to his dash. Though Dhoni made his first-class debut in the 1999-2000 season, it was only in 2004 that he became a serious contender for national selection with some stirring performances when the occasion demanded. With his two centuries against Pakistan A, in the triangular tournament in Kenya, that he established himself as a clinical destroyer of bowling attacks.
In just his fifth one-dayer, against Pakistan at Vishakapatnam, he cracked a dazzling 148 - putting even Sehwag in the shade - and followed that up with a colossal 183 not out at Jaipur against Sri Lanka in November, when he broke Adam Gilchrist's record for the highest score by a wicketkeeper in ODIs. He made an instant impact on the Test level too, pounding 148 at Faisalabad, in only his fifth Test.
He was elevated to the vice-captaincy of the one-day squad for the tour of England and Ireland in 2007 and, soon after, was appointed captain of the Twenty20 squad for the World Championship in South Africa. A heady title triumph marked him out as a leader for the future and was handed over the reins of the one-day side in September 2007 after Rahul Dravid decided to step down as captain. It didn't take too long for him to enhance his reputation, claiming India's first tri-series triumph in Australia. He captained Chennai Super Kings in the IPL, losing out to Shane Warne's Rajasthan Royals in a tense final. As a stop-gap Test captain, he was credited with leading India to their biggest ever win in terms of runs (320), against Australia in Mohali.