Revered for his tactical genius, leadership, and a knack for racking up winning runs for his teams, it is easy to forget what an incredible batsman Mahendra Singh Dhoni has been throughout his career.
One of only 14 batsmen to score 10,000 runs in One-day Internationals (ODI) and the seventh-highest run-scorer in Indian Premier League (IPL) history, Dhoni was as reliable as they come with the bat for the better part of 15 years and continues to remain an impact-maker with the willow for the Chennai Super Kings in the IPL to this day.
While the former skipper has played some unbelievable knocks over the years, we take a look at his best across all three formats of the game.
91* vs Sri Lanka (2011)
By far his most memorable knock and one of his absolute best, Dhoni walked in at No. 5 ahead of the in-form Yuvraj Singh, with India in a spot of bother at 114-3, chasing 275 in the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup final at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai.
#OnThisDay in 2011, India lifted their second @cricketworldcup! A brilliant hundred from Mahela Jayawardene wasn't enough as @GautamGambhir soaked in the pressure for his 97 and MS Dhoni finished it off in style!— ICC (@ICC) April 2, 2019
Can India regain the trophy at #CWC19? pic.twitter.com/FQuJE0qTnE
The skipper was sublime on the night, picking apart the Sri Lankan bowling attack at will, forging a 109-run partnership with Gautam Gambhir that put India in prime position to win the contest. Post Gambhir’s dismissal, Dhoni and Yuvraj took India home with 10 balls to spare as India won the ICC Cricket World Cup after 28 years.
The skipper’s outstanding knock of 91 runs off 79 balls, which included nine fours and two sixes, rightfully won him the Man of the Match award.
224 vs Australia (2013)
While Dhoni’s credentials as a batsman in the limited-overs format is unquestionable, his Test career left a lot to be desired. The keeper-batsman scored just six centuries in 144 innings in the longest format of the game. However, his double-century against Australia in Chennai in 2013 etched his name in the history books of Indian Test cricket.
After skipper Micheal Clarke’s stellar knock of 130 powered Australia to 380 in their first innings, the Australian bowling side reduced the Indian batting line-up to 196-4 and were seemingly in prime position to get a foothold in the contest.
In walked Dhoni and turned the tide with his incredible knock of 224 off just 265 balls and helped India build a 198-run lead over the Aussies. The skipper swatted the Australian attack mercilessly all over the park, smashing 24 boundaries and six sixes. His score of 224 was the highest by an Indian skipper in Test cricket, surpassing the previous mark of 217 set by Sachin Tendulkar in 1999 against New Zealand.
Dhoni’s brilliant knock helped India win the match by eight wickets.
84* vs Royal Challengers Bangalore (2019)
Chasing 162 against Royal Challengers Bangalore at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in the 2019 edition of the IPL, Chennai Super Kings got off to a disastrous start, losing four wickets with just 28 on the board at the end of the sixth over. With the required rate almost 10, in walked Dhoni with his bat to attempt and rescue his side.
The skipper smashed 84 off just 48 balls, which included five fours and seven sixes and is his highest score in T20 cricket till date. Needing 26 from the final over, Dhoni scored 24 off the first four balls, but couldn’t connect with an off-cutter on the final ball as Chennai lost in agonising fashion by just a solitary run.
Irrespective of the result, Dhoni’s special knock was a joy to watch and will be reminisced about for years to come.
183* vs Sri Lanka (2005)
Despite having nailed a spot in the Indian team in 2005, Dhoni’s nascent career was yet to take flight. When the Lankans came to visit India in late 2005, the keeper had batted 19 times and had just over 500 runs and one big knock to his name so far - 148 against Pakistan in Vishakhapatnam.
In the third ODI, Sri Lanka set a target of 299 on the back of a sensational century from Kumar Sangakkara. The Lankans would have felt fairly confident with the total they had to defend, but little did they know that they were about to witness to coming out party of MS Dhoni.
Sent in to bat at No. 3 after Tendulkar’s dismissal in the first over, Dhoni took over and smashed a 183 off just 145 to guide India to victory with 23 balls to spare. The future skipper showcased his entire repertoire of skills and took the Lankans bowlers to the cleaners, smashing 15 boundaries and 10 sixes. Dhoni was unstoppable and showed no respect for any bowler, as he scored his career-high.
Post that knock, Dhoni cemented his spot in the Indian team, was named captain in 2007, won the ICC T20 World Cup in his first assignment as skipper and went on to have a legendary career. He will be forever remembered as one of the finest cricketers India has ever produced.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Indranil Mukherjee