Thursday, August 31, 2017 was a momentous day in the career of Mahendra Singh (MS) Dhoni. It was the fourth match of the ODI series against Sri Lanka, and by crossing the whitewash from the pavilion became only the 20th player ever to appear in 300 ODI matches. A wicketkeeper by speciality, Dhoni marked the occasion with an impressive 49 runs from 42 balls, and avoided dismissal at the hands of rivals Sri Lanka on hostile turf. He also caught out three opponents in an overall performance that merely served to further illustrate his versatility, which has brought India back to the fore over the last fifteen years. In that time he has also broken several records:
By the turn of the century, the evolution of what would become T20 cricket was in full swing. With said evolution came a newfound demand for skilled wicket-keeping batsmen. Once rejected by East Coast Group, MS Dhoni would become one such player, but it would not be in any sort of evidence on his professional limited-overs debut. Run out on his very first delivery, it was as disastrous a debut as could possibly be imagined. Disastrous though his ODI debut was, Dhoni remained stoic in the face of humiliation, and grew from strength to strength, at a rate unseen for many a year. Dhoni’s fifth ODI proved to be the breakthrough moment of his career. As a proud Indian cricketer, facing off against eternal enemies Pakistan is as pressurised a task as it gets, but more especially so when still getting to grips with the pace of the limited-overs game.
Dhoni – the power-hitter T20 demands
With a total of 149 from just 123 deliveries in said game, Dhoni established himself as an immediate crowd favourite. While Sachin Tendulkar boasted a classier overall technique, Dhoni’s raw power gave India a rediscovered degree of fear they had not commanded for many a year. Soon after, Dhoni excelled even his own stratospheric standards, scoring 183 in 145 balls against Sri Lanka and became the second-highest scorer of runs in an individual ODI match. In time, Dhoni would invent the iconic ‘helicopter shot’, in which he followed through the main hit with a small rotation. For several years, bowlers were (quite literally) stumped as to how they could possibly beat Dhoni’s technique. While it was not without its critics, who would cynically assert that it was an energy-sapping style that could not possibly translate from ODI cricket to the test game, Dhoni once again overcame his doubters.
10 amazing ‘helicopter shots’ from MS Dhoni.
In 2007, said cynics would be silenced in emphatic fashion, with his all-powerful swing giving India a stunning test win over England, in the face of imminent defeat, by virtue of 76 from 159. Later that year, as reported by News 18 his efforts were once more priceless as India lifted the inaugural T20 World Cup, beating none other than Pakistan in the final. In 2008, Dhoni became the Chennai Super Kings’ first captain. Though duties in the new Indian Premier League represented an unprecedented level of exertion, he was not fazed. His efforts proved crucial in the Kings’ glut of silverware, but Dhoni’s path towards full international captaincy was not disrupted.
400 not out?
If anything, Dhoni hit new highs, and – as recalled by ESPN Cricinfo – was named ODI player of the year in 2009. He also scored his first of six consecutive appearances in an ICC test or ODI ‘team of the year’. Without the need for being particularly vocal, he captained India to victory at the 2011 World Cup. Today, he stands as an inspirational figure in the Indian test team, and provides just one reason for the India ODI team to be considered odds-on favourites at 9/20 with Betway, as of November 15, 2017, to win the upcoming series with Sri Lanka. Although the (now) 36-year old is in a race against time to reach 400 appearances, and become only the fifth player to do so, he is still playing like a professional at the very height of his game. But is he really the greatest wicket-keeper batsman India has ever seen?
Purely on the basis of all-round stats, comparisons with fellow Indian cricket legends Syed Kirmani and Kiran More are the fairest test measure – and there is one clear winner:
These were Dhoni’s stats as they stood ahead of India’s 500th test match in September 2016. Statistically, he has long been India’s best-ever wicketkeeping batsman [Original content – no source]
Though no longer involved in test cricket, Dhoni continues to inspire the future generation of cricketers, not just in India, but worldwide. A total of over 8,000 runs (and counting) tells. It will be a long time before another player shows the same versatility as Dhoni, with the ability to captain in every format.