“DhoninearlytouredwithustoPakistan[in2004].Souravwasverykeentohavehiminthesquad.Hewasontheborderline,anditwasoneofthosedecisionsthatcouldhavegoneeitherway.Asitturnedout,weselectedasuccessfulTestteam,andhedidn’tmakeit,”WrighttoldIANSinaninterview,payingrichtributetoDhoni.Indiawonthethree-Testseries2-1andthefive-ODIseries3-2.

“ThatwasobviouslywhenDhonihadstartedtocomeintodiscussionsatthenationallevel.Souravhadverygoodthingstosayabouthimandalwaysencouragedyoungsterswhocameintotheset-up.Butyouneverknowhowthingswouldhaveworkedout[forDhonihadhebeenpickedforthePakistantour].That’swhenIfirststartedtohearabouthim,”recalledWright,whohadafive-yearstint(2000-2005)asthefirstforeigncoachofIndia.

DhonieventuallymadehisOne-dayInternationaldebutinDecember2004,againstBangladeshinChittagong,aged23yearsand169days.AndhemadehisTestdebutinDecember2005,againstSriLankainChennai,whenhewas24yearsand148daysold.ThemanfromRanchiwentontobecomeoneofthemostsuccessfulIndiacaptainsinthetwoshorterformatsofthegame–ODIandT20.Besides,hewasareliablehard-hittingbatsmanandspecialisedinchasingdownwinningtargetswithridiculouseaseinthetwoformats.

“AndDhoniseemedtobereadingthegameanoverahead.That’salwaysasignofagood,strategiccaptaincy,”formerNewZealandcaptainWrightsaidfromhishomecityChristchurch.”He’sobviouslyoneofIndia’sgreatestcaptainsalongwithoneortwointheModernEra.HehascertainlybeenfantasticforIndia.Hisrecordspeaksforitself.”

DhoniledIndiain200ofthe350ODIsheplayed,for55percentsuccess.InT20Internationals,hecaptainedthecountryin72ofthe98matchesfor58.33percentsuccess.And,hewascaptainin60ofthe90Testsandendedupwith45percentsuccess.

Also,DhoniwonallthreeICCtrophiesasIndiacaptain–WorldT20in2007,50-overWorldCupin2011,and50-overChampionsTrophyin2013.Thedashingcricketerretiredfrominternationalcricketlastmonthafterahighlysuccessful14-yearinternationalcareer,butcontinuestocaptainChennaiSuperKingsintheIndianPremierLeague.

WhilerecallinghisassociationwithDhoni,Wrightpointedoutthathewaswiththedasherforashorttime,butsaidhewashighlyimpressedbymanyaspectsoftheyoungster’scricketintelligenceandpersonality.

“ItwasobviousthatDhoniwasnotonlyaverygiftedcricketerbutalsoanextremelyintelligentone.Hewasaverygoodlistenerwhodidn’tsaymuchinhisfirstseries[underme],butwasobservingandlearningallthetime.Ithoughtatthetimethathehadabigfutureinfrontofhim,”saidthearticulateformerleft-handedopeningbatsman.

WasDhoniabornleaderorworkedhimselfupforcaptaincy?”Ican’tmakethatjudgementbecauseIwasn’tthere[forlongtoseehimcaptain].Hejustplayedjustoneseries[undermeascoach].WhatIheardfromafarwasthathedidn’thaveanydifficultyintakingthereinsoverwhenthereweremoreexperiencedplayersinthesideandtheyseemedtorespecthisleadershipwhichisalwaysasignofleadershipability,”Wrightsaid.

TheformerNewZealandcaptainseemsmostimpressedbyDhoni’sabilitytochangegearswhilebattingandadapttodifferentsituationsofagame–somethingthathewitnessedinIndia’shomeODIseriesagainstPakistanin2005.

“Hegotahundredinhiscareer’sfifthOne-dayInternational[inVisakhapatnam]whileVirenderSehwaglookedquiteslow.Thatwasabrilliantinnings.Itwasoneofthosehundredsforwhichyouwouldstandandsay:‘Thisguyisveryspecial’,”hesaidreferringtoDhoni’sbrisk123-ball148.

“AndinthefourthODI,cameinafteropenersSachinTendulkarandSehwaghadputonagoodstandandhecameinatNo.3.Themostinterestingthingwasthathewasquitehappyjusttorotatethestrikeandgivethebatsmanwhowasin,andIthoughtthatitwasreallyintelligentandsmartcricket.Andthatwasoneofhischaracteristics–notonlyasacricketerbutasaleader,particularlyinone-daycricket,throughouthiscareer.Technicallyhewasverysound,”emphasisedWright.Dhoniscored64-ball47inAhmedabad,thoughPakistanwonthegame.