As MS Dhoni announced his retirement from international cricket on August 15, Patriot lists some of the legend’s best innings on the ground
“I would go to war with MS Dhoni by my side”- Gary Kirsten
This quote epitomises the man and his significance to Indian cricket. The game has seen brilliant batsmen, exceptional leaders and consistent finishers. A combination of all those three aspects is what made Mahendra Singh Dhoni one of cricket’s most valuable players. Dhoni has donned the hats of various roles in his career and conquered them with calm and precision.
Arguably one of India’s greatest captains of all time, world’s best finisher and one of the hardest hitters of a cricket ball, MS Dhoni is in a league of his own.
It is not just the 100s, or the majestic sixes that define Dhoni as a batsman. It’s the number of times he has bailed India out trouble that makes him such a great servant to the game in the country. Here are some of the innings where Captain Cool was at his absolute finest.
44* vs Australia, Adelaide, 2012
This was an innings where MS Dhoni struggled at the outset with Suresh Raina, his partner at the other end looking fluent against the lethal Aussie attack. India were chasing 270 with Gautam Gambhir giving India a solid start.
After the dismissal of Raina, the onus was on Dhoni to guide the Blues home. Thirteen were needed off the last over with Ravi Ashwin on strike against Clint McKay.
Ashwin managed just one run from the first two balls, with the equation now being 12 from 4 balls. Dhoni was on strike, McKay pitched it on a good length and what followed was the most iconic six ever hit at the Adelaide Oval.
The ball sailed over long on as India then scored their remaining runs with ease and scripted another fine run chase with Dhoni at the helm.
45* vs Sri Lanka, Port of Spain, 2013
In a tri-series final against Sri Lanka at the Queen’s Park Oval, India were chasing 202. They were sailing with ease at one stage with the scoreboard reading 139/3 in 32 overs.
But on a tough track, wickets fell one after the other with Rangana Herath picking up 4 wickets. India, from a commanding position, were now in need of 17 runs from 2 overs with Ishant Sharma, the last Indian batsman on the crease with MS Dhoni.
Fortunately for India, Sharma survived the penultimate over with India now needing 15 from the last six balls. Shaminda Eranga was the Sri Lankan bowler with Dhoni on strike. Dhoni missed the first ball and then as always, finished the game with a bang.
The second one went for a six with the next two balls going for two fours. Dhoni just smiled after taking India over the finishing line, winning yet another trophy.
54*, Kings XI Punjab, Dharamsala, 2010
This match was one of the rare occasions where MS Dhoni let go of his calm and cool tag and celebrated wildly after guiding CSK home. In a do or die game for the Super Kings at Dharamsala, the Punjab side gave Dhoni’s men a tough target of 192. The captain came after 10 overs when CSK needed another 104 runs.
MS was batting with a purpose that day as he scored 54 from 29 balls which included five fours and two sixes. The last 47 runs in the chase came in just 18 balls with Irfan Pathan conceding 18 in the last over of the match.
His first four balls (2,4,6,6) ended the match with MS Dhoni hitting two humongous sixes with one of them crossing the boundaries of the stadium. Dhoni celebrated by punching his helmet as Pathan was ripped apart by the Dhoni storm.
This was easily MS Dhoni’s best IPL inning and one of the best matches in the history of the T20 league.
113* vs Pakistan, Chennai, 2012
This is the only knock from Dhoni in this list which featured a losing cause. In the first match of the series, India were asked to bat at Chennai. They were reduced to 29/5 when Dhoni arrived at the crease.
The captain played a mature innings, making sure that India completed their 50 over quota.
An innings of 113 not out from 125 balls had seven fours and three sixes in them. A 75- run partnership with Suresh Raina and then a 125-run stand with Ravi Ashwin led India to a respectable total of 227 for 6. India lost by four wickets but Dhoni’s innings that day proved his expertise to build an entire team’s batting effort on his own.
148 vs Pakistan, Visakhapatnam
Dhoni’s maiden ODI century came against Pakistan at Visakhapatnam in 2005 when India were playing in the second ODI against Pakistan of the 6-match series.
After Tendulkar was dismissed cheaply, Dhoni came on to bat alongside Virender Sehwag. The duo put on a partnership before India lost two consecutive wickets in the form of Sehwag and Ganguly. Dhoni then put on another partnership with Dravid and finished with 148 runs off 123 balls. India made 356 in 50 overs. Pakistan tried hard but fell 58 runs short. Dhoni eventually won the Man of the Match award
224 vs Australia, Chennai, 2013
Dhoni made a habit of leading the team from the front and the Chennai test against the mighty Aussies was another glorious example of this trait. Australia posted 380 on a dry Chepauk wicket with India needing a big total in reply.
India was at 196 for 4 when Dhoni took guard. First, a 128-run stand with Virat Kohli and then a brilliant 140 run partnership with debutante Bhuvaneshwar Kumar set the ball rolling for India.
Dhoni’s blazing knock despite wickets falling at the other end was commendable. He scored 224 runs from 265 balls which included 24 fours and 6 sixes. It turned out to be a match-winning knock from Dhoni as India registered a famous eight-wicket Test win.
Individually, this was Dhoni’s highest ever test score and the first double hundred from an Indian wicketkeeper. This 224 run knock also happened to be the highest score ever by an Indian captain in a Test match.
183* vs Sri Lanka, Jaipur, 2005
Chasing 299, India’s innings started in the worst possible way, with Sachin Tendulkar departing in the first over. In a surprising decision by Ganguly and the team management, MS Dhoni was sent in to bat at number three.
What followed was absolute carnage of the highest order! No bowler was spared by Dhoni’s hard hitting. He scored a mammoth 183 runs off 145 deliveries and got India home with four overs to spare. His innings included 15 fours and 11 huge sixes.
This was a run chase unheard of by the Indians, with Dhoni’s master class being noticed by the entire world. His exploits in that game can be best expressed by the statistic that after him, the next highest score by an Indian batsman in that game was 39.
91* vs Sri Lanka, Mumbai, 2011
As a batsman, Dhoni had a below-par World Cup. But the enigmatic captain and batsman had saved his best for last! India needed 275 to win their second ever World Cup and this time, on home soil. At number five, Yuvraj Singh — the man of the tournament, was supposed to come on to bat. But Dhoni decided to promote himself and what followed was the most important innings of his career.
Dhoni handled the spin duo of Muttiah Muralitharan and Suraj Randiv pretty well and kept the scoreboard ticking. The match was won with a trademark Dhoni six off Nuwan Kulasekara and India were the winners of the 2011 World Cup!
This knock of Dhoni will be forever etched in every Indian cricket fan’s memory and that six will be remembered as the most important one in India’s history. Sunil Gavaskar said it best about that crucial innings, “When I die, the last thing I want to watch is the six that Dhoni hit in the World Cup final.”
(Cover: Dhoni during his match-winning knock at the 2011 World Cup final // Getty)