On September 24, 2007, India lifted the inaugural T20 World Cup with MS Dhoni at the helm of the side. The long-maned Jharkhand keeper-batsman became a cult figure after the title triumph and his raw aggression and brute power had people associating him with a natural T20 cricketer.
Yet, that's everything Dhoni is not. He was a spectacular One-Day International batsman, an incredible finisher who knew when to start putting pressure on the opponents. In T20s, Dhoni was effective, brutal and as tactical but his batsmanship never quite reached the level it was expected to reach.
A strike rate of 137.85 in the Indian T20 League with 23 half-centuries makes you wonder if Dhoni actually did well in the league's history. Sure, there's no debating his status as Chennai - the most successful franchises by win percentage - ultimate hero and leader. But purely as a batsman, did he reach his zenith in the league?
In the 12 seasons, Dhoni passed 400 runs in a season just four times in the Indian T20 League's history. Interestingly, two of those came in the last two seasons where he averaged 75.83 and 83.2 respectively. The strike rate in 2018 was breathtaking at 150 and last year it hovered around the mid-130s.
For the first time since 2013, Dhoni made more than a single half-century in the season, scoring thrice each in the last two seasons. The difference was in the role he played. Dhoni stayed longer at the crease - a fact emphasized by the fact that he faced 300+ balls in the last two seasons, a feat he had achieved just twice before (2015 and 2008).
For India, Dhoni replicated this. Since 2018, Dhoni averages 42.16 in T20Is for India while striking at 132.46. He has just one half-century but that's primarily because the heavy top-order denies him enough time in the middle.
It took Dhoni 11 years to notch up his first half-century for India in T20Is. A large chunk of his knocks have come from below the no.5 batting position which means chances have been difficult to come by. It is the opposite of this at Chennai where he almost always figures inside the top 5 of the batting line-up.
This gives Dhoni time to settle in and then go for his shots, a mantra that gave him immense success for India in ODIs. It is surprising that Dhoni hasn't been used more often inside the top 5 by India. At no.4 and no.5, Dhoni averages 51 and 40.25 for India. Yet, he has batted in these positions just 12 and 26 times respectively as against 32 times at no.6 where his average is just 34.66 and the strike rate a meagre 116.85.
That India haven't used Dhoni well in T20Is is a stunning revelation, one that might take a few by surprise. His numbers and career at Chennai prove he is a much better T20 batsman than he has ever shown to be for India.