New Delhi: Unlike his heir apparent Virat Kohli, India's most successful captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni had a relatively quite year in 2015 even as cricket continues to enjoy an unparalleled support despite a series of scandals in country.
In a year, which saw new Test captain Kohli emerged as the most searched sports-person by Indians in the year 2015, MS Dhoni's profile suffered a huge drop in popularity charts.
According to a Goonj India Index 2015 report, made exclusively available to Zeenews.com, the limited overs skipper came fourth in the list of most popular sports stars in India last year, behind Kohli, batting legend Sachin Tendulkar and Real Madrid's Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo.
MS Dhoni's drop in "interest volume" is also coincided with the rise of Yuvraj Singh, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina and Ajinkya Rahane's popularity. Yuvraj, a national-icon not only for his on-field exploits but for his various off-the-field presence, returned to the national team; while Rohit, Suresh and Rahane continue to be mainstay of Indian batting.
In contrast, MS Dhoni retired from Test cricket in the middle of Australia tour just ahead of the 2015 ICC World Cup Down Under. His sudden retirement allowed Kohli's profile rise a manifold, and as result, the Delhi batsman has dominated the Digital Media presence.
Sania Mirza, who won an unprecedented numbers of tennis titles including multiple Grand Slam doubles crown with legendary Martina Hingis, occupies the sixth spot. Just behind Swiss maestro Roger Federer, she tops the charts for Indian sports persons for a non-cricketer.
Saina Nehwal (12th) is the only other non-cricket Indian sports-person to enter the top-20 list. In a break-through year, the badminton ace became the first Indian to be ranked number in world.
Global super stars Neymar (10th), Rafael Nadal (11th), Lionel Messi (13th), Novak Djokovic (15th) and Maria Sharapova (19th) also found a mention in the list.
WWE wrestler and actor Dwayne Johnson, aka The Rock, was a surprised 14th in the list, which was dominated by the cricketers.
The Goonj India Index 2015 was compiled using data from Google Search, Mentions on Twitter, Mentions on Popular Facebook Pages, Mentions in Popular News websites and YouTube Search.