London: Mahendra Singh Dhoni's aggressive unbeaten 91 in the World Cup summit showdown against Sri Lanka matches the greatest innings played by a captain in a final of the showpiece event, according to former England captain Mike Atherton.
Atherton said Dhoni's 79-ball knock could be compared to the match-winning 102 by West Indian captain Clive Lloyd in the 1975 final against Australia.
"Dhoni's unbeaten 91, topped off with a towering six over long-on to win the match, was an astonishing innings. It was fashioned under pressure but with a freedom found mostly a peg or two down from the kind of stage upon which a World Cup final is played," Atherton said.
"The greatest innings ever played by a captain in a World Cup final was Clive Lloyd's monumental hundred against Australia at Lord's in the inaugural tournament in 1975 and if this was not its equal then it was not far behind," he wrote in his column for 'The Times' newspaper.
"Lloyd was in Mumbai in his role as chairman of the ICC's Cricket Committee and as Dhoni past him on the stage to collect his man of the match award, the West Indian would have recognised a fellow traveller," he said.
Atherton was all praise for Dhoni's leadership qualities, especially when he was under intense scrutiny throughout the tournament.
"Nobody, except Sachin Tendulkar, has been under more scrutiny. Every decision, every move, every statement has been pored over by an army of writers and pundits. After the defeat against South Africa, Dhoni criticised his batsmen for playing to the gallery rather than for the team and it was as if he had tossed a meaty bone to the most voracious pack of jackals imaginable ... they gnawed on this juicy offering for days to come.
"When, in the same match, he gave Ashish Nehra the final over instead of Harbhajan Singh, an instinctive move that was perfectly reasonable but one that was backfired, it was a ploy that was commented upon and chewed over ... And why, everyone wanted to know, was Ashwin not playing at all?" wrote Atherton.
"Throughout, though, Dhoni has carried himself with the air of a man for whom such matters were trivial. Not once, until he let the mask slip on the podium, did he complain about the spotlight; not once did he lose cool on the field."
The former England captain said there was no doubt that India had the talent to win the World Cup but the question was whether they would be able to soak the pressure and come out triumphant. He said with Dhoni at the helm the team went on to do its job calmly and with confidence.