Flashback 2011: What are MS Dhoni’s men doing now?

Two of the survivors of that squad, Virat Kohli and Ravi Ashwin, are in line for their second 50-over World Cup triumph

Where are the heroes of the 2011 World Cup led by 'captain cool' MS Dhoni? (photo: National Herald archives)
Where are the heroes of the 2011 World Cup led by 'captain cool' MS Dhoni? (photo: National Herald archives)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

After a gap of 12 years and two World Cups, the men in blue are one step away from what could be India’s third 50-over World Cup triumph. Memories of 2 April 2011 are inevitably at the forefront — much like it used to be about the 1983 heroes — as a buoyant India take on Australia at Ahmedabad's Narendra Modi Stadium on Sunday. 

What is the class of 2011 doing now? While Virat Kohli and Ravi Ashwin are very much in the thick of things, the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, or Virender Sehwag are also still in the public gaze.  

What about the rest of them? National Herald digs into the 15-member squad:  

Mahendra Singh Dhoni 

It was Captain Cool’s last-ball six in the final which helped India regain cricket’s biggest prize after a gap of 28 years at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. Dhoni had earlier lifted the first-ever T20 World Cup in 2007 in South Africa with a ragtag team, and followed up the 2011 success with the ICC Champions Trophy — making him the only captain to boast of all three major ICC trophies.  

He called time on his international career in August 2020, but led Chennai Super Kings in the Indian Premier League and guided them to their fifth crown earlier this season. Given the kind of send-offs he received at all the venues this year, it seemed a foregone conclusion that it was his final bow — but he has kept everyone guessing as usual.   

Sachin Tendulkar 

It took the ‘God of cricket’ six World Cups and a journey of 22 years to finally lay his hands on the 50-over World Cup trophy. Tendulkar continued to play for more than two years after that, eventually retiring from international cricket with a memorable send-off in November, 2013.

The little master has continued to remain the private person that he was, apart from playing mentor for the IPL team Mumbai Indians and running his own academy in collaboration with England's Middlesex county cricket club — apart from making the odd guest appearances, obviously for a fee. 

Virat Kohli 

It has been a fairytale journey for Kohli since 2011, during which he has established himself as the most influential cricketer of this generation. The ongoing World Cup has seen him in sublime form too, as he overcame Tendulkar’s record of most number of ODI centuries (50) and there is every possibility that come tomorrow, he may become only the second Indian player (along with Ravi Ashwin if he plays) to be part of two 50-over World Cup triumphs.  

Yuvraj Singh 

Player of the series in 2011 (362 runs), Yuvraj had life throwing a gauntlet at him when, soon after the World Cup, he was diagnosed with a rare form of germ cell cancer and had to undergo prolonged treatment in the US.

In what could be termed as the mother of all comebacks in cricket, 'Yuvi' played the T20 World Cup the very next year, as well as domestic cricket with fierce commitment. However, he started to be in and out of the team thereafter — though the crowd puller was a quite a big draw among the IPL franchises. His final IPL season with Mumbai Indians was a bit of a letdown as he mostly warmed the benches and eventually called it a day in mid-2019. 

Gautam Gambhir 

A gritty southpaw, Gambhir played a crucial role in India's 2011 triumph, his innings of 97 laying the foundation for the hosts’ successful chase against Sri Lanka in the final. He was sidelined from the Indian team thereafter, but continued to play domestic cricket and led a turnaround in the fortunes of Kolkata Knight Riders by winning two IPL trophies with them.

He was called up to the Test squad for the last time in 2016, but has failed to impress the selectors since then. Gambhir finally bid adieu to the game in late 2018 and took a plunge into politics, where he is now an MP for the Bharatiya Janata Party from New Delhi — apart from being a TV pundit. 

Virender Sehwag 

One of India's leading matchwinners at the start of the millennium, the swashbuckling opener's stay in the Indian team didn't last long post-2011, with the rise of new talents like Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan. Having announced his retirement on his 37th birthday in 2015, Sehwag has donned multiple hats — being part of commentary teams, serving as a cricket expert for various media outlets, and building a personal and popular brand on social media, complete with irreverent and sometimes controversial comments. 

Zaheer Khan 

Hailed as one of the most crafty left-arm pacers in the game after Wasim Akram, ‘Zaks’ ended the 2011 World Cup as the joint highest wicket-taker in the tournament with 21 scalps. However, he was laid low by a hamstring injury that forced him out of the side, and he seemed to have lost some of his venom on his return to the international stage.

In the IPL, he continued to out-think batsmen with his guile while leading the Delhi Capitals (formerly Delhi Daredevils) during the 2016-17 editions. Having hung up his boots altogether as a player in 2015, Zaheer is now the director of cricket operations for Mumbai Indians. 

Harbhajan Singh 

‘Bhajji’ proved a handful on the slow surfaces of India during the tournament, with his variation and experience. However, expected to lead the spin attack after Anil Kumble's retirement, he lost his edge by having fewer wickets to show with each passing match.

The simultaneous rise of Ashwin didn't help Singh's case either, and though he continued to be overlooked, he seemed content with producing impressive IPL performances. He has four IPL winners' medals to show for Mumbai and was last roped in by Kolkata Knight Riders in 2020 at the age of 40.  

Ravi Ashwin 

He came into the mix with on the back of a good showing in the IPL for Chennai Super Kings, but Ashwin only played a couple of matches during the 2011 tournament. A thinking cricketer, Ashwin soon rose to become India's no. 1 spinner across formats and ruled for a number of years until he was jettisoned from Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri’s plans in the white ball game after a poor outing in the 2017 Champions Trophy.

Things, however, changed dramatically in recent years, when he was suddenly a part of the T20 World Cup while his call-up for this World Cup was nothing short of dramatic. 

Suresh Raina 

The spunky left-hander's weakness against the short ball meant that he wasn't going to be a consistent feature in the Indian side for long even if he kept piling up the runs consistently for Chennai in the IPL.

Though he has had his chances a few times — as late as July 2018 in England — his exploits in the domestic scene and IPL often failed to match his international runs. A knee surgery in 2019 put a question mark over his fitness and Raina finally followed in the footsteps of his favourite captain MSD — retiring from international cricket the same day.  

Yusuf Pathan 

Pathan's international career nosedived soon after the World Cup 2011 as sporadic performances with the bat, while not being the most agile in the field, failed to earn him a regular place in the side. Even in the IPL where he has been a constant at KKR for seven years before moving to Sunrisers Hyderabad in 2018, Pathan has not lived up to his billing of being one of the fiercest strikers of the cricket ball. The elder of the Pathan brothers eventually retired from all forms of the game in early 2020. 

S. Sreesanth 

The 2011 World Cup final turned out to be last ODI for Indian cricket's prodigal son as he was one of three IPL players banned for life in the spot-fixing scandal of 2013. The eventual lifting of his ban by the Supreme Court in March 2019 didn't help the then 38-year-old's cause, who by now had desperately tried his hand at acting, dancing, and even reality TV. He did create a stir by making an impressive comeback in domestic cricket at 40 last year, but has now reconciled with life as a TV pundit. 

Ashis Nehra 

The wiry left-arm pacer, who knows how to swing the ball, has had his moments, but life as an injury-prone fast bowler proved too tough to handle for Nehra. The Delhi pacer surprisingly returned to the T20 side on the back of some impressive performances in the IPL for Chennai, going on to help India win their first limited-overs trophy in Australia. After quitting the game, Nehra has carved a niche for himself as the coach of Gujarat Titans.

Munaf Patel 

One of the unsung heroes of India's triumph in 2011, Munaf Patel soon fell out of favour with the selectors, having last played for India in an ODI against England in September 2011. He did continue playing domestic cricket and the IPL until 2017 before announcing his retirement in November 2018. It was, however, a pleasure to see him back in action for India Legends in the Road Safety Series in Raipur, Madhya Pradesh a few years back. 

Piyush Chawla 

The leg spinner, who was incidentally part of two World Cup-winning outfits under Dhoni, did not play a single ODI for India since the 2011 World Cup. Chawla, however, kept himself relevant in the IPL for more than a decade — in which he is one of the leading wicket-takers — and even turned up for Mumbai Indians this season. Chawla has also cut his teeth as a TV pundit, and has not been doing badly.

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