India clinched their first ever bilateral ODI series win in Australia on Friday in Melbourne when MS Dhoni took the side home with a gritty 87* in a stiff chase. The ex-captain who was adjudged the Man of the Series for his three successive half-centuries in the 3-match series thus managed to respond to all the criticism coming his way for the past year or so in the best way possible - with his bat. Former Indian skipper and IndiaTV's cricket expert was all praise for the former's monumental effort and has doffed his hat to current captain Virat Kohli for sticking with Dhoni through thick and thin.
On IndiaTV's show 'Aaj ki Baat' Ganguly said that it was Kohli's continuous support for MS which has bore fruit in the form of India's maiden series win in Australia. In Dada's opinion, the mutual respect between the two senior players of the team is what has put the current Indian ODI side on the path of greatness.
"Both players have played a lot of matches for India with Dhoni currently being the seniormost member of the side. Most of all, what has been noticeable about the relationship is that Kohli has stood by his ex-captain's side even when he has been under fire for the past year or so. He has time and again stressed that Dhoni is a big player and one of the strengths of his team. Very few captains back their players up to this extent. I admire Kohli for not abandoning Dhoni in the last 15-16 months. This is what makes a great team. No team can become great unless there is mutual respect and camaraderie between the big players," said Ganguly.
Even though Dhoni's strike-rate has gone down over the past couple of years and the number of runs he scores have also dwindled, Dada said that Dhoni's batting in Australia is really good news for the Indian team with the all-important World Cup to follow.
"It was great to see Dhoni bat the way he did. Big players are criticised whenever they don't play well, it's the way it is. But Dhoni used all his experience in Melbourne to take India home even though Virat Kohli's departure had left the match hanging in balance. And this is good news for the Indian team that their match-winner is back in form," said Dada.
Leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal produced the best figures by a bowler in Australia with his 6/42 in Melbourne breaking the back of the Australian batting. Ganguly thinks that it was a good surprise move from the Indian team to play him in place of the more-fancied Kuldeep Yadav as the home side hadn't played him before.
"I think Chahal was the surprise factor for the Australian batsmen as they hadn't played him before and that is why he was played in the final. Wrist-spinners have always been successful in Australia. Chahal's success gives India the chance to play both wrist-spinners in the team which will prove to be a great strength for the side," said the 113-Test veteran.
Ganguly also feels that Kohli as a captain has matured a lot over the years and his ability to stick with his decisions is what makes him successful, even though at times they have back-fired.
"As an Indian captain you have to take the decisions which are going to help your team win and that's what Virat Kohli did. All such decisions wouldn't be successful and some will backfire too but Kohli has matured as a captain with time to know that. This win and that too without Bumrah, will give a lot of confidence to captain Kohli going into the World Cup," said Sourav.
After wrapping up a highly successful tour of Australia, the Men in Blue are to play 5 ODIs and 3 T20Is in neighbouring New Zealand. When asked about India's chances there, Ganguly was confident that today's India can beat any side, anywhere in the world.
"Definitely, New Zealand is a good overall ODI side, but the Indian team today can defeat any other team anywhere in the world. So the matches in NZ will be hard-fought but it will prove to be good preparation for the World Cup," Ganguly signed off.