Just a day after India beat Sri Lanka at Headingley in Leeds on Saturday, 6 July, the former Indian skipper MS Dhoni turned 38. The occasion called for a special celebration from his teammates in the dressing room as well.
Meanwhile, reports of Dhoni deciding to quit international cricket after the 2019 World Cup have started doing the rounds. As per a PTI report, a senior BCCI Official has already ‘hinted’ at Dhoni’s possible retirement after the ongoing World Cup.
"You never know with Dhoni. But it is unlikely that he will continue to play for India after this World Cup. But since his decisions to quit captaincy from the three formats have been taken so suddenly, it is very difficult to predict at the moment," a senior BCCI official told PTI on condition of anonymity.
The three ICC trophies India won under his leadership is still the best record by an international cricket captain, one that should make Dhoni proud.
If India manages to reach the final, it would be the perfect send-off for the former Indian skipper, who made his debut for India way back in 2004.
Since then, Dhoni has been a pure match winner and the laurels that he has earned as a captain have been second to none.
A veteran of 90 Tests, 349 ODIs and 98 T20Is for India, Dhoni has played many match winning innings and has won matches almost single-handedly on several occasions.
On his 38th birthday, here’s a look at 10 of his best knocks in international cricket. We will start with ODI cricket, a format in which he has thrived during his 15-year-long career.
MS Dhoni: The ‘Finisher’ in ODIs
148 vs Pakistan (Visakhapatnam - 2005)
After a string of failures to start his career, this was the first time MS Dhoni was elevated in the Indian batting line-up. He was sent in at number three for the very first time in his career and it worked wonders.
Against Pakistan, in Visakhapatnam, Dhoni showed a glimpse of his batting prowess during the 155-minute innings. Against a formidable bowling attack by Pakistan, Dhoni took them head on and hit some hard shots.
In this match, his ‘helicopter shot’ became a shot which cricket fans tried very hard to emulate. His game included 15 fours and four sixes.
His game powered India to a mammoth 356/9 which was an impossible target to reach those days. Indian bowlers led by Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra and Harbhajan Singh then defended the total as India won by 58 runs. Despite best attempts by Pakistan’s batsmen, they were all bowled out at 298 runs.
183* vs Sri Lanka (Jaipur- 2005)
This was another match where he was pushed to number three on the batting order and he delivered again. It was Sri Lanka who had to bear the brunt of his astonishing skill this time around.
The Sri Lankan attack had Chaminda Vaas and Muttiah Muralitharan but none was spared by Dhoni. 15 fours and 10 sixes designed his knock.
Moreover, this was the first match which showcased Dhoni’s ability to finish games with the bat and remain unbeaten at the end of it.
He was also the Man of the Match in the game. This was just the beginning of a streak of unbeaten games where he steered his team to a win.
134 vs England (Cuttack -2017)
This match will be best remembered as the Yuvraj-Dhoni show. The duo added a 256-run stand for the fourth wicket and helped India reach a mammoth 381/6.
India were 25/3 in less than five overs and that was when Yuvraj and Dhoni began their strong partnership.
Dhoni batted at number five, while Yuvraj at four. India won the game at last as England failed to chase the score down and finished on 366/8. Yuvraj Singh was adjudged the Man of the Match in a game where he also hit his highest ODI score.
91* vs Sri Lanka (Mumbai-2011)
This was a big game where the former Indian skipper delivered. Leading upto the final of the 2011 World Cup final, Dhoni hadn’t scored a fifty yet. However on the night of the final Dhoni scored an unbeaten 91 off 79 balls to help India win their second World Cup title.
MS Dhoni hitting the six to win the game and Ravi Shastri’s voice describing the winning moment from the commentary box, provided the perfect setting of India’s second World Cup win, which came 28 years after they won their first in 1983.
The relationship between Dhoni and Shastri which started thereafter, has now rubbed off on Virat Kohli. This is ever since Kohli became captain and and Shastri joined the team as head coach.
MS Dhoni: The T20 Superstar
From ODIs, now let’s shift our focus to T20Is. A format in the game of cricket, which has evolved the standards of batting with cheeky shots and switch hits, MS Dhoni has relied on his power-hitting.
Here’s are some of ‘Thala Dhoni’’s best T20 knocks.
56 vs England (Bengaluru- 2017)
This remains Dhoni’s highest T20I score. His 36-ball 56 was instrumental in helping India get past the 200-run mark and post a score of 202 for 6 in 20 overs. He hit five fours and two sixes.
Yuzvendra Chahal, then webbed his magic around the England batsman as his 6 for 25 helped India win the game by 75 runs.
45 vs South Africa (Durban-2007)
The 2007 World T20 was MS Dhoni’s first assignment as Indian’s captain and he showed the world that captaincy brought out the best in him. Throughout the World Cup campaign, Dhoni played key knocks for India which dictated the end result of the game. 45 off 33 balls was one such knock.
India came into this game after beating England in Durban. Yuvraj Singh, who had hit a record of six sixes in an over against Stuart Broad, was rested in this game. This meant Dhoni had more responsibility on his shoulders.
With India 61/4 batting first in the 10th over, Dhoni found a partner in a young Rohit Sharma who was just beginning to be considered a batting prodigy.
The duo added an 85-run stand in the next 10 overs to take India to 153/5, which back in those days was more than a competitive score.
The South African habit of choking in big matches once again came back to haunt them as this loss eliminated them from the tournament. For India, RP Singh took 4 for 13 and was sheerly unplayable as Sreesanth and Harbhajan Singh took two each.
36 vs Australia (Durban- 2007)
This match is fondly remembered for Yuvraj Singh’s knock of 70 off 30 balls against Australian bowlers. However, Dhoni's 36 off 18 balls was equally important.
Indian openers gave their team a good start but it was Yuvraj's knock which gave the team the much-needed momentum. However, in trying to push further Yuvi got out.
The former Indian captain then took matters in his own hands and clobbered 36 off 18 balls which included four fours and a six. It powered India to 188 for 5 after 20 overs.
Australia, despite a commendable performance from Matthew Hayden (62) at the top and Andrew Symonds (43) in the middle fell short by 15 runs as they finished on 173/7. The Indian bowlers stood up to the challenge as India registered a semi-final win over one of their arch-rivals in the tournament, of which they were eventually crowned champions.
33 vs Pakistan (Durban - 2007)
MS Dhoni in his first big 'Test' as Indian captain had a campaign to remember. The group-stage game against Pakistan was the most memorable of the lot. The match saw the first-bowl out ever in T20I history but not before Dhoni made another sizeable contribution for India.
His 33 off 31 balls including three sixes and one four helped India reach 141/9. But Pakistan, as mercurial and uncertain they are as a team, managed to tie the game.
However, India won the game via bowl-out in what has gone down as a historic game between the ‘neighbours.’
MS Dhoni: The ‘Test’ Batsman
MS Dhoni, did not have the looks of a Test cricketer, still he carved out a niche for himself in the format. Before anyone noticed, Dhoni quietly played 90 Test matches scoring almost 4900 runs. He ended his career averaging 39 in the format with a strike rate touching almost 60.
He has 6 tons and 33 fifties in his Test career, none better perhaps than the two innings that he played against Pakistan and Australia.
148 vs Pakistan (Faisalabad- 2006)
Playing just his second Test match against Pakistan, MS Dhoni took the attack to the opposition in what was a Herculean knock, against a formidable bowling line-up.
Having already made a name as a power-hitter in the ODI format, Dhoni transferred that into the Test format. He imposed himself upon the Pakistan bowling attack led by Shoaib Akhtar and played an innings to remember.
19 fours and four sixes designed his knock as the world saw an out an out attacking Test wicket-keeper batsman.
Though the match ended in a draw, it was Dhoni's arrival into Test cricket.
224 vs Australia (Chennai- 2013)
224 remains Dhoni's highest Test score and no surprise that he scored those runs in Chennai. Against a formidable bowling line up led by Mitchell Starc and having Peter Sidle and Nathan Lyon for company, Dhoni played a captain's knock. He scored his one and only double-century to help India post 572 in reply to Australia's first innings score of 380.
Bowling Australia out for 241 in the second innings, India needed 50 runs to win. MS Dhoni was adjudged the Man of the Match.
MS Dhoni might retire from all forms of cricket after the end of the World Cup. However, his legacy, will remain in the mind of every Indian fan. His contribution to Indian cricket both on and off the field has been absolutely phenomenal and once he retires, his void will be difficult to fill in times to come.
Happy Birthday ‘Thala Dhoni’
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