A small town boy whose first love was football went on to become one of the greatest players in the history of cricket. MS Dhoni has been a great of the game – one of the most successful captains of all-time, a phenomenal batsman and a wicket-keeping all-rounder.
As he turns 39 on the 7th of July, we look at some insights and observations on what made Dhoni – the ODI batsman – one of the best in the format’s history.
A RARE ONE OF TWO
Dhoni is one of the two batsman (the other being Kohli) who has achieved the double of scoring 10,000-plus runs at an average of above 50.
There are 14 batsmen who have scored more than 10,000 runs. Dhoni is the only one amongst them who has batted a majority of his career in the non top 4 positions. In other words, he is the only proper middle-order batsman in this elite list.
There are 8 batsmen who have a batting average of 50 or more (min. 2000 runs). Dhoni is the only one along with Michael Bevan who is a specialist middle-order batsman on this list.
In conclusion, it is absolutely remarkable that Dhoni, who batted a majority of his career at number 5 or 6, scored the number of runs he did at such a high average.
CONTRIBUTION IN WINS AND A GREAT CHASER
Dhoni has the third-highest average (69) in victorious matches in ODI history only after Babar Azam (85.37) and Virat Kohli (77.37).
He has a phenomenal record batting second with an astonishing average of 102.71 in successful chases – the highest in ODI cricket history – even higher than King Kohli’s 96.21!
And here is another astonishing fact!
India has lost just 2 (and tied one) of the 50 matches in which Dhoni has remained unbeaten in a chase. Thus his Chase-Not Out-Win Percentage is 94%.
Comparing him to the other great middle-order finisher - Australia won 25 of the 30 matches (83.33%) in which Bevan was unbeaten in a chase (and lost 5).
THE BIG-MATCH PLAYER AND GREAT FINISHER
April 2, 2011: World Cup Final: Chasing 274 in a high pressure final in front of a packed Wankhede crowd, Dhoni promotes himself up the order instead of the in-form Yuvraj Singh, to keep the right-left combination going to neutralize the best bowler of the opposition – Muttiah Muralitharan. Dhoni, as he had done several times during his career, controls the chase before starting to dominate it. The rest is history. He remains unbeaten on 91 off just 79 deliveries taking India to a famous win with that magnificent six over long on.
Dhoni had not done anything significant till then in the tournament. But cometh the hour, cometh the man! This was Dhoni – the big-match player – at his very best. He displayed this quality to raise his game when it mattered the most on several other occasions in his career.
Dhoni is also a great finisher. He has the third-highest average of 48.09 after AB de Villiers and Bevan for positions 5-7 in ODI history. Dhoni has a strike rate of 100 or more in 29 of the 61 fifty-plus scores he registered from positions 5-7. And a strike rate of 90-plus in 40 such innings.
SCORING TOUGH RUNS UNDER PRESSURE
Half of Dhoni’s top 10 ODI innings in wins for India came under pressure – when the team had lost early wickets. He came out to bat at 25 for 3 against England in Cuttack in 2017 and smashed 134 off just 122 deliveries putting together 256 for the 4th wicket with Yuvraj Singh.
From 51 for 3, he recorded an unbeaten 101 off 107 balls in a successful chase against Bangladesh in Dhaka in 2010.
One of his most remarkable innings came for Asia XI against Africa XI in Chennai in 2007. Dhoni came out to bat at 72 for 5 and hammered an unbeaten 139 off just 97 deliveries adding a double century partnership with Mahela Jayawardene.
His two colossal hundreds in 2005 (148 against Pakistan at Visakhapatnam) and 183 in a successful 298-run chase against Sri Lanka in Jaipur, both came from the number 3 position, when India had lost their biggest player – Sachin Tendulkar – for a single-digit score. For Dhoni to have produced these two great innings, not even a year since his debut, showed the world the mettle he was made of.
THE GOLDEN PERIOD FOR DHONI AND INDIA
Dhoni had an average of in excess of 50 for six of the seven years between 2008 and 2014 (every year except 2010). During this period, he aggregated 5,354 runs in 133 innings, including 6 of his 10 career hundreds.
Dhoni’s average of 59.48 was the second-highest in this period marginally lower than De Villiers (60.38). His average in wins was also the second-highest, again, only after De Villiers during this period.
He was phenomenally consistent and had a Failure Rate of just 21% (being dismissed for less than 20 is counted as a failure) during this period.
It does not come as a surprise that Dhoni’s golden period coincided with India’s great run in ODI cricket. Between 2008 and 2014, India had the best win-loss ratio of 1.88 in the world and more significantly won two major world tournaments – two of the biggest wins in their cricketing history!
Add to his batting achievements, his astuteness behind the stumps and record as a captain taking India to victory in the 2011 World Cup and 2013 Champions Trophy, and MSD is an ODI legend!