Bangalore, Jul 7: Indian captain MS Dhoni turned 31 on Saturday. Unlike last year, where he had two trophies by his side to celebrate, Dhoni has plenty to ponder over the next few months.
When Dhoni celebrated his 30th birthday in 2011, the right-hander from Jharkhand had won the most coveted title in his career, the 2011 World Cup and just over a month later from that euphoric April 2 night at Mumbai's Wankhede Stadium, he had won a second Indian Premier League trophy with the Chennai Super Kings.
But 2012, has been a disappointing one, by his own standards. Though he led Chennai to IPL 5 final against Kolkata Knight Riders and lost, the more worrying signs for him is India's Test debacles abroad.
Despite failures in cricket whites, Dhoni's popularity stakes are rising. Recently, he was ranked above Sachin Tendulkar in top sportspersons' rich list put out by Forbes magazine. From June 2011 to June 2012, he had made $26.5 million while Tendulkar's earnings were $18.6 million. He was also named in world's top 50 most marketable athletes.
Since his 30th birthday, Dhoni has claimed an unwanted record of losing eight straight Test matches overseas. First, it was in England, where Team India not only was humiliated 0-4 by the hosts, they were also stripped of the ICC Test world number one ranking in the five-day format.
Later in 2011 and early this year, when Dhoni and his boys went to Australia, it was familiar scenes. Only the setting had changed from England to Down Under. The scoreline remained 0-4 and daggers were out for Dhoni. But he has so far managed to hold on to the Test captaincy.
There have already been talks of wanting to change leadership in Tests and hand it over to Gautam Gambhir. But so far nothing official has emerged from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). India's next Test assignment is in August when New Zealand arrive in India.
Dhoni had also hinted that by the end of next year, he would be contemplating on exiting from one of the three formats. It is sure to be Test cricket.
At 23, Dhoni made his international debut and was soon seen as an explosive batsmen who could tear bowling attacks apart. His brilliant knocks against Pakistan (148 in 2005) and Sri Lanka (183 not out in 2005) in the earlier stages of his ODI career suggested his huge potential as a batsman. But of late he has curbed his attacking game and is now the Captain Cool of Indian cricket.
For the next one year, all Indian fans will be hoping that Dhoni takes the team to more heights and most importantly regain lost pride in Tests.
Happy Birthday Dhoni.