April 2nd, 2011. The ICC World Cup Final and into the 49th over of India’s chase. Indian cricket team in the hunt for pinnacle cricketing glory, for the nation. We edgily witnessed our Captain, MS Dhoni, take positive strides to victory with his well compiled 85 runs off 78 balls in the pursuit of 275 runs to Groove India’s name on the Trophy. He had got to the crease taking responsibility to build an innings when India was in a spot of bother at 114/3 in the 22nd over.
Now, at 271/4 in the 49th over, all it needed was one hit and we could cross over to a momentous victory that would forever be a resplendent memory of our sporting pride. And that one whacking, resplendent hit from Dhoni’s bat sailed over the ropes and into the crowd, tagging the nation with the coveted World Champions crown. He had finished it off in his own style. With a Six! That hit epitomized not only the power in the stroke but the icon’s fortitude of standing up to the challenge and enable finishing on his own, backed by his potent self-belief
The man whose batting gloves held the bat that nailed the title for India also donned the gloves of the captain who kept wickets for the country. When the country needed a wicket-keeper who could be relied upon to bat well when the team looked up to him. To accumulate or accelerate runs as needed, as well wear team India’s jersey for his specialist keeping skills. One figure that earned his stripes for that tough synchronization was Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni was born on July 07, 1981, in Ranchi, Jharkhand, an erstwhile part of Bihar
DHONI’S EARLY CRICKET PHASE
Dhoni’s foray into cricket was a moment of necessity than inclination as he, a goalkeeper for the district level team was asked to do wicketkeeping duties for another club. His skills behind the wickets had been impressive as he found a place in the Vinoo Mankad Under 16 Trophy for the 1997/98 season. Dhoni had begun giving flight to his wings. The next team where he would stamp his big-hitting and keeping prowess was the Central Coal Fields(CCL) team. That promotion was his unraveling to professional cricket. He grabbed the chance to make his mark as one who could hit big while running up big scores. His team got to the A Division. Deval Sahay who had brought Dhoni to the CCL Team was the ex Vice-President of Bihar Cricket Association and the Ranchi District Cricket President. His backing saw Dhoni who had impressed with his scoring, surge to the Bihar Ranji Team after having worked his way up from the Ranchi Team & Junior Bihar team. Dhoni thereon scaled one step of the ladder firmly footing his place with both the bat as well keeping wickets. From East Zone U-19 squad to debuting for Bihar in Ranji Trophy in 1999-2000 season. He retained his place in the team for the subsequent season. He owed allegiance to the newly formed state in Jharkand Cricket Team for the 2002-03 season. The phase that brought him to national reckoning had begun as he had begun establishing himself as a finisher, as one who could score and hit well while batting lower down the order.
The next season Dhoni was included in the East Zone team for the Deodhar Trophy which his team eventually won. He had already hit a century in Ranji ODI when he hit another for East zone.
He took up the job of traveling ticket examiner in the railways to fend off the extra resources his ambitions would call upon. He had been all of 22 years at the time
Dhoni’s prowess could not go unnoticed for long. The BCCI’s Training Research Development Initiative scouts observed and marked his game to be included in the India-A team’s tour of Kenya. In his debut wearing the India Jersey, runs sprang from his bat in abundant grace with two explosive centuries. That invited a call up to the Senior Team in November 2004.
DHONI’S SELECTION TO TEAM INDIA
His style of batting approach was not always textbook but effective as he took the momentum from his immense self-belief and lustrous hitting. Scoring consistently and self-belief were always overlapping. It then came as a surprise when he was dismissed for a duck on his debut for the Senior India Team. He had poor scores in subsequent outings and the dismay was marked all the more as he had established himself as an exciting big-hitting batsman. However, he was persisted with, by the selection panel and the then Captain, Sourav Ganguly. And all his promise, the power-hitting burst through playing in his fifth ODI, which was held at Vishakhapatnam. Dhoni pulverized the Pakistani bowling attack in assimilating a strokeful 148, the highest by an Indian wicket-keeper.
That batting spark lurched and torched to an exhilarating power-hitting 183, not out at Jaipur that simply cast aside all doubts as well the challenging 300 put on board by the Lankans. They seceded ground to the audacious stroke-play that Dhoni resonated his strokes with brute power. The mammoth innings off just 145 balls had 15 x 4s and 10 x 6s
Mahendra Singh Dhoni had stepped foot onto the territory, legends had earmarked for themselves with the talent and persistence they carried. And Dhoni tugged along with him an unparalleled physical power in dispatching the ball to and well over the boundary across venues.
Dhoni soon donned the test whites for India in 2005 making his debut against Sri Lanka.
His sojourn to ODI stardom flowed ceaselessly as India won by 4-1, the One Day International series versus Pakistan at their home soil, in 2006. Dhoni contributed much-needed runs with scores of 68, 72,2*, 77*, runs in innings he got to play in the series.
At the 2007 ICC World Cup India suffered shocking defeats at the hands of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka and was out of the race at the Group Stage itself. Dhoni got out on a duck in both these matches as angry fans vandalized the house he was constructing in his home-town Ranchi.
After a good Afro-Asia cup for Dhoni, he was named vice-captain of the team for series against South Africa and England.
DHONI’S ASCEND TO CAPTAINCY
Rahul Dravid stepped down as skipper even as the T20 format took shape and Dhoni was ascended to the Captain’s Seat for the T20 World Cup 2007. The nation witnessed heroic efforts of a young team where each member put in his special contribution to make it to the final & set the stage for a riveting final versus Pakistan. A young side that had spunk though inexperienced, marshaled astutely by Dhoni emerged home victors.
Frenzied celebrations followed on their return as the winning Indian team was driven atop an open bus, thronged by crowds en masse on Mumbai streets. Dhoni had earmarked the tag of ‘Captain Cool’ post this triumph. His Captaincy style oozed confidence replicating his self-belief in his batting style the one of power hitting. The reigns of the team for the ODI format were accorded to Dhoni and as Anil Kumble announced his retirement in late 2008, Dhoni was the unanimous choice to be badged the next Test Captain of the Indian Team. He was now leading Indian Team across all formats.
Dhoni’s captaincy phase was marked with the team asserting victories in their home series against Australia in 2008. Winning the away series in New Zealand in 2009 and defeating the Lankan team for another home series win led India to be perched as the top-ranked Test team in the world. Indian teams’ march to winning away series in South Africa would have rolled on had it not been for some dogged resistance from the proteas lower order that saved the series for them.
Dhoni married his school mate Sakshi Rawat on July 04, 2010.
In 2011 Dhoni lifted in his hands, India’s Glorious moment of pride, the ICC World Cup. Bearing a poor string of scores in the phase leading to the final, Dhoni shouldered India’s cause and chase of ODI’s pinnacle triumph. He remained unbeaten on 91, claiming the Man of the Match award..Dhoni finished off in his trademark style, a six to end the innings.
That one stroke in history struck a chord in heartstrings of joy, jubilation, the pride of all citizens of the country that confirmed us as towering over others, as The World Champions of the Game.
STERNER TESTS THAN ANTICIPATED FOR DHONI’S TEAM....
The period after the euphoric win was paved with one disappointment after another as the team suffered the ignominy of 8 straight test defeats away from home to England & Australia. The ODI commonwealth bank tri-series followed the test series 4-0 loss which did not as well brighten up the team’s and the captain’s record. However, the fourth match of the series at Adelaide was a memorable one as Dhoni, tagged as “Captain Cool” and the best finisher lent weight to both the epithets as well to a Clint Mckay’s half volley in the last over. India needed 12 runs in four balls. Dhoni hit a monstrous 112 mtr six at Adelaide, which’s probably the biggest ground in Australia and took India home with 2 balls to spare. That win was among the only two that India won in the series. Watch Dhoni hit that six among the biggest ever in international cricket.
Worse was in store for India’s test cricket record as it lost a test series on home soil. The 2-1 loss to England shook to the core an assertive Dhoni who was raring, itching to get back to winning ways restructured the team. Impulsive calls for change in captaincy could be heard albeit in hushed tones. Under pressure to prove the team’s credentials and with pride at stake, the team roared back to win all the four tests at home in the series against Australia. Dhoni played the best test innings of his career, a masterly 224 at Chennai in the first test of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. That set the tone for the series as Dhoni’s team became the first team in over 40 years to snare all tests of a series against Australia. With this series triumph, Dhoni also benchmarked himself with the most test wins by an Indian captain.
India’s limited bowling options during this phase didn’t help as the team’s ODI form slumped. It was during this phase that Dhoni put his best foot forward to not only rescue team but to carry it beyond the line solely on his own. Case in point being the Celkon Cup final, July 2013. Played against Sri Lanka as India chasing 202 for victory had slumped to 167-8, Dhoni played the anchor’s role to perfection in scoring 45 runs as India won the cup with a wicket and two balls to spare. Another leader’s innings was the century, a 113, against Pakistan. he came into bat when India had lost half of its batting lineup with a mere 29 on board. Though he partnered Ravichandran Ashwin to take India to 227, it was not enough to avoid a defeat.
…DHONI’S WARDS BACK ON WINNING SPREE
The 2013 ICC Champions Trophy was another feather in Dhoni’s cap & in India’s Sporting folklore. In a masterstroke with which the nation has reaped rewards since, Dhoni promoted Rohit Sharma to open the innings along with Shikhar Dhawan. Rohit who had been struggling with his form hit a purple patch, and along with Dhawan partnered to set up victories to take us to the final. India, undefeated in the tournament, prevailed over England via Duckworth Lewis Method in a rain truncated final. Dhoni had become a living legend in his own right as the only cricketer to lay hold over the zenith in claiming all the ICC titles. The T20 Trophy in 2007, The ODI Cup in 2013 and The Champions Trophy in 2013.
At the World T20, 2014 staged in Bangladesh and 2016 edition held in India Dhoni’s team was on course to add to their cabinet of trophies. However, the team lost the 2014 final against Sri Lanka while tapered out in the semis two years later, in 2016.
DHONI’S TOUGHEST PHASE AS CAPTAIN
Dhoni’s captaincy again drew criticism as the team lost a spate of tests overseas. In the 2014 series against England India made an auspicious start by drawing the first test and subsequently winning the second test at the home of cricket, The Lords. However, it slid in the next three losing the series to conditions that favored seam, swing and inept batting by its own batsman. Dhoni alone plowed the furrows taking blows to his body, coming down the pitch while attempting to negate the seam movement. His score of 71 in India’s total of 152 at Manchester in the fourth test and 82 in the team’s total of 148 in the final fifth test at The Oval tells the lone, stoic resistance he put up to the conditions at play while his batsmen lost wickets around him.
The Australia tour that followed held out a similar story. An injured Dhoni had to pull out from the first test. The test captaincy was handed over to Virat Kohli. Though Virat Kohli fought intensely taking India close to what would have been a famous victory in the first test, it was not enough as Australia won by 48 runs. The second match was another closely fought affair with the Aussies emerging victors by 4 wickets. After drawing the third of the series, the Boxing day test, Dhoni shocked the cricketing world with his surprise announcement of retiring from test cricket. He had cited excessive workload for his immediate retirement. Virat was made the stand-in captain for the fourth and final one of the series. That match ended in a draw as well. But it was another series lost.
And Dhoni’s Test Record as a wicket-keeper batsman ended having been a part of 90 Tests scoring 4876 runs at an average of more than 38. He held the batch of honor as for leading the team for most test wins for an Indian captain. He won 27 tests of the 60 he captained to better Sourav Ganguly’s record of 21 test wins from 49 tests as team captain.
Dhoni and Sakshi were blessed with a baby girl on February 06, 2015, whom they named Ziva.
..RELENTLESS IN LIMITED OVERS FORMAT
Dhoni was at the helm in the limited-overs World Cup 2015. As the defending Champions, India stayed true till the semi-final when they succumbed to Australia. He dotted the semi-final with another special knock, 65 runs as the team fell woefully short of the target of 329 for victory to lose by 95 runs.
In 2016 Dhoni led the team to victory at the Asia Cup in Bangladesh.
The match that was reduced to 15 overs a side was won in the penultimate over. Dhoni clubbed 2 sixes and a four in his knock of 20 runs off just 6 balls.
In the next major event with Dhoni in the captain’s seat, India lost in the semi-finals of the World T20 played at home. In the limited opportunities he got, Dhoni remained not out in four matches and was dismissed just once while pooling in 89 runs all together to the team’s cause.
The year 2016 also saw the release of a movie based on his life M S Dhoni-The Untold Story. This movie glorified Dhoni’s deserving iconic status as well fanned many times the love & adulation his fans across the world had in their hearts for him. Though cinematically represented, the movie laid out how Dhoni’s batting style, all his life, with an iconic line in the movie…”Mahi maar raha hai”
The date was January 04, 2017, when Dhoni announced stepping down as captain in the limited-overs format as well. He had recused both ODI and T20 captaincy. The formats he had led the team for over nine years had gifted to the country 3 ICC World Titles under his captaincy. Such had been his aura and experience in nuances of tight situations that the team has needed him around and he has since played purely on the account of a specialist keeper-batsman.
DHONI’S WANING STRIKE RATE
In the Year 2018, Dhoni suffered a worrying and apparent dip in batting form by his own standards of sticking around when the team had been on a sticky wicket for him to finish off matches. The strike rate dipped to 71.42 in 2018 as compared to 84.7 in the previous year. In fact his batting strike rate in ODIs had hovered around 90 for most of his career.
In Jan 2019, Aussie players documented their admiration for MS Dhoni in a video:
Preceding his turn at the wicket was the phase of the spectacular luster of Virat Kohli’s ODI run spree that had lit up stadia across the world, a ground laid by opening partnerships, India’s experiments in aplenty with pinch hitters and specialist batsmen to fix the no. 4 batting slot. It all meant Dhoni had fewer opportunities to exert his batting legacy for the team. As his batting reflexes went on a downside, against what he had acclimatized his massive legion of fans with. Against his lunging at bowling and timing his shots with power, with swiftness as in his yore, the Dhoni of the last two years had tried to reinvent himself as a new batsman. The Dhoni now at the crease adapted a stabilizer and accumulator role as a batsman who could still hit with power though could not accelerate as in hurricane style of his early days in the team.
His faster than the blink-and-gone speed of carrying out stumpings, especially to spinners meant India had a stable safe pair of hands behind the wicket to compliment the spin-variations of the new crop of spinners tried in the team. It proved to be the top of mind recall, his calm assuaging presence, especially in pressure situations, meant he remained a core figure to the team and played the ODI ICC World Cup 2019. He scored some useful runs with 56 not out as his best but the falling strike rate in crunch matches became a tipping point as he has found himself out of the team since the tournament.
What does future beckon for him, Dhoni’s repertoire of a true army man’s forte & pride in representing the country, of not hanging his boots, how and where does he fit into the team’s scheme of things? Even if it is a matter of an arduous conclusion but for this much-loved cricketer whose persona is seeped in the soil & soul of what is a sport but lived as a religion in the country, he shall forever reside in our fondness of his striking power, self-belief with which he planted motherland in the lap of glory.
To MS Dhoni, a salute from the heart, as a tribute, to his cricketing journey and the proud national persona that he is. That combine, forever entrenched in our memory shall never have an end….Thanks, Mahi….
India’s M-A-H-I– Mighty Achievements Honouring India.
A tribute not only from his global fans but from the governing body of cricket the ICC:
A Look at the illustrious career stats of MS DHONI:
MS Dhoni as a batsman
MS Dhoni’s bowling stats: