In April, when India won its first Cricket World Cup in 28 years, it felt as if the entire population of 1.21 billion had spilled out into the streets to party. Mahendra Singh Dhoni, 29, the Indian captain, finished the final game by flamboyantly hitting the ball into the stands, cementing his country's dominance of the world's second most popular sport. Dhoni is now universally acknowledged as India's best captain ever. He's also its most likable, exuding both cool confidence and down-to-earth humility.
As astonishing as Dhoni's talent is his background. Indian success stories are usually associated with pedigree, connections and power. Dhoni, from a small-town family of modest means, had none of these, but he's shown India that you can make it with only one thing: excellence. Dhoni doesn't just lead a cricket team; he's also India's captain of hope. And he didn't just win India the World Cup; he also taught India how to win.
Bhagat is a best-selling Indian novelist and motivational speaker
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