Mahendra Singh Dhoni edged out Sourav Ganguly as India's greatest captain by the slimmest of margins in a survey conducted on Star Sports show Cricket Connected in which the two captains were judged on eight parameters developed in association with ESPNcricinfo.
To celebrate the birthdays of two of India's greatest leaders on the cricket field -- Dhoni (July 7) & Ganguly (July 8) -- Star Sports conducted the survey involving some of the biggest names in world cricket like Graeme Smith, Kumar Sangakkara, Gautam Gambhir, Irfan Pathan and Kris Srikkanth.
The results were announced on the recent episodes of Cricket Connected English & Hindi.
Dhoni's performance with the bat while captain proved to be the difference. In each category an average score was calculated from each panel members' votes. After the results of each were totaled together, Dhoni was ahead by less than half a point.
Ganguly scored higher than Dhoni in four categories -- captaincy away from home, transformational effects of captaincy on team, success of team handed over to the next captain and overall impact.
Dhoni scored more points in the four categories of captaincy at home, ODI captaincy, titles won and performance as batsman while captaining the team. The difference in points between the two greats came down to decimals.
Dhoni helped India win the 2011 50-over World Cup and 2007 T20 World Cup and also the ICC Champions Trophy in 2013, becoming the only captain to win all three ICC trophies. Under Ganguly, the Indian team beat a team like Australia on the road and developed into a fearless unit with the likes of Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra making a name for themselves.
"The biggest difference between Dada's captaincy and MS's captaincy is MS, the player for me. I think in that middle order, the ability to close games, win games, finish games in that calm that he brought to the people around him. I think for me, that is probably the biggest difference between the two heroes, is MS Dhoni," former South Africa captain Graeme Smith said.
"If Dada had an MS type player, his team was slightly more developed, I think you would have seen him win plenty more trophies. Dada was blessed to play or not blessed to play in an era where Australian cricket was at the forefront and dominating the world game as well which at the time the team had won the most during that period," he added.
"You can be judged on a lot of things but sometimes you have to leave something behind and I think in that sense, Dada did a lot to create a wonderful legacy for others to inherit and MS benefitted from that," added former Sri Lanka captain Sangakkara.
"Obviously, both these guys have taken Indian cricket forward, but just purely from an impact point of view, I can only talk about MS Dhoni because he was very serious about taking Indian cricket forward," said former India opener Gautam Gambhir.
"You are talking about two iconic figures and outstanding cricketers. It's such small margins and it's very difficult to debate, but I think, like Allan Border probably did in the early days of Australian cricket, setting them up for the success, I think that you have got to look at Dada here and say that what he did for Indian cricket was iconic," opined Smith.
"MS, exceptional player, unbelievable captain, again, has moved Indian cricket forward. But the foundation for all of that was laid by Dada for me," echoed Sangakkara.
Smith and Sangakkara picked Ganguly over Dhoni when it comes to Test cricket but both agreed that Dhoni is the man in white-ball formats.
"From my perspective, it's always difficult to move away from an opening batsman and a captain as challenging. I agree that when it comes to Test cricket, having played against MS, you would always felt that you had an opportunity to work him over, specially away and out of India, but I think when it comes to Test cricket, I'll have to sit with Dada, but one-day cricket, certainly MS is my man," said Smith.
"In one-day cricket, the ability to finish is always to me, very, very tough. So, I would go with MS for sure in limited-overs cricket, in white-ball cricket just because he batted at that tougher finisher position, but in Test cricket, without a doubt, Ganguly every day," added Sangakkara.