Ever since making his international debut in 2004 against Pakistan as a 23-year-old, MS Dhoni has given many a memorable moment for Indians fans to cherish.
From a dashing, flamboyant wicket-keeper batsman who blasted bowling attacks out of the ballpark to becoming one of the most successful captains in Indian cricket history, Dhoni’s evolution as a cricketer in international cricket was nothing but remarkable. Today, on the back of the veteran announcing his retirement from international cricket, we, here at SportsCafe, look back at five of his finest moments on the field in an Indian shirt!
224* against Australia in Chennai
Playing Australia at home is always a special and a humongous occasion and in early 2013, the Michael Clarke-led team toured India trying to conquer Indian soil one year after their fierce rivals England had done so. Skipper Clarke set the tone for his team by scoring a century on the very first day, and after having lost early wickets, Dhoni had his work cut-out when he walked in to bat with the score 196-4. Unperturbed by the situation, the then Indian skipper launched a scathing attack on the Aussie bowlers, smashing 24 fours and 6 sixes en route to an astonishing double-century. Even with India 406/8 at one stage, Australia had a slight sniff, but Dhoni, with minimal help from Bhuvneshwar Kumar, stretched the total to 572 and batted Australia out of the match. He finally ended up with a score of 224, a number which turned out to be his highest ever score in Test cricket. Such was the impact of MSD that the Aussies never recovered from the blow, as India eventually went on to win the series 4-0.
183* v Sri Lanka in Jaipur
A year and 21 matches into his ODI career, people had seen enough of MS Dhoni to know what he was capable of, but, by then, he still hadn’t showcased the cricketing world the wreckage of his wrath. Having already comfortably won the first two ODIs, India headed into the 3rd ODI in Jaipur with a chance to go 3-0 up in the 7-match series. Chasing a stiff target of 299, India lost Sachin in just the 5th ball of the match. While everyone was expecting Dravid to walk in, the skipper caught everyone by surprise by sending Dhoni in at #3 instead. His 148 against Pakistan at Visakhapatnam came batting at #3 too, so perhaps Dravid was eager to see if Dhoni could repeat that feat again. Either way, all Dravid did was send Dhoni in at No.3 and the rest, as they say, is history. A then 24-year-old Dhoni ripped the Lankan bowlers to shreds, smashing 15 fours and 10 sixes to equal Sourav Ganguly’s record for the second highest indivdual score by an Indian batsman. Dhoni ended with 183*, and by the time he smashed his last six - off the bowling of Dilshan - the wicket-keeper batsman had already sent shockwaves around the whole cricketing fraternity.
113* against Pakistan in Chennai
Needless to say, every single person in the country knows how big an occasion an India vs Pakistan clash is, irrespective of the stage. In the very first match of the 3-match bilateral ODI series in Chennai, Pakistan won the toss & put India to bat in rather challenging batting conditions. Much to everyone’s shock and disbelief, Junaid Khan ran riot and the top 5 Indian batsmen were sent packing with single-digit scores next to their name. Walking in to bat at 29-5, Dhoni was literally the only hope for India; not just for victory but also to save themselves for a certain embarrassment.
In what could perhaps be called the best knock of his career, Dhoni batted with immense courage, grit and determination to fend off the threat posed by the Pakistani bowlers to race to a century. With Suresh Raina and Ravichandran Ashwin chipping in with a 30 and 40, Dhoni steered the Indian ship on his own, and, from a position of hopelessness, they ended up with a score of 227, giving something for the bowlers to defend. Although India ended up on the losing side, this knock was enough to show the whole world why opponents considered India to always be in the game as long as Dhoni was still batting; perhaps this is the exact reason why the fans never gave up in the semi-final against New Zealand in 2019.
Run out of Mustafizur Rahman in the 2016 T20 World Cup
Having already gotten a thrashing at the hands of New Zealand in the very first match of the tournament, India headed into their encounter against Bangladesh under serious pressure, as they knew a defeat could very well send them packing from the World Cup. Batting first at Chinnaswamy, India only managed to post a modest total of 146, which, at that point in time, looked a sub-par one. With 11 left for Bangladesh to get off the last over, Dhoni made a gutsy call and gave Hardik Pandya the responsibility to defend it. It instantaneously seemed like a blunder, as Mahmudullah and Mushfiqur Rahim took 9 runs off the first 3 deliveries, meaning all Bangladesh needed to spoil India’s party was to score 2 runs off the remaining 3 deliveries.
But in not one but two moments of madness in as many deliveries, both the batters threw their wicket away in the next two deliveries, bringing the equation to 2 needed off the final ball with new batsman Shuvagata Hom on strike. As Pandya bowled a short delivery around the seventh stump line, Hom went for a flashy cut and missed it completely. The non-striker, Mustafizur Rahman, instantly took off trying to complete a run to tie the match. However, Dhoni, with the ball in his hand, instead of attempting a direct hit, sprinted all the way from where he was standing to the stumps and broke it with his hands. As everyone anxiously waited for the third umpire’s verdict, replays showed that Dhoni had indeed broken the stumps way before Mustafizur managed to reach the crease. The whole crowd erupted and thanks to Dhoni’s genius, India stayed alive and eventually went on to reach the semi-final. This run-out was one of Dhoni’s finest moments of his entire career, and it was also when everyone started to wonder, “Is there anything this man cannot do?”.
“That” six against Sri Lanka in the 2011 World Cup Final
For 28 years, India had not tasted World Cup glory. The Indian team led by Sourav Ganguly came close in 2003 but were outclassed by a superior Australian team in the final. After having thrashed their arch-rivals Pakistan in the semis, India entered the final brimming with confidence, knowing they had a realistic chance of lifting the trophy. Sri Lanka batted first and posted a challenging score of 274 in their 50 overs, thanks to Mahela Jayawardene’s supreme hundred. In their quest of chasing 275, India lost both Sehwag and Sachin early. The crowd was silenced and it felt like the ghosts of 2003 were going to haunt India once again. When Dilshan dismissed Kohli in the 22nd over, India were still 161 adrift of the target. When everyone expected Yuvraj - the best performer for India in the tournament - to come in, skipper Dhoni once again surprised the whole world by walking in to bat at #5.
He outclassed the Sri Lankan bowlers and formed a gargantuan partnership with Gautam Gambhir to take India within striking distance. With victory in sight, Gambhir was dismissed by Thisara Perera. But once again, like he’d done throughout his career, Dhoni went about his business with his evergreen phlegmatic attitude. And soon, with him on strike, India were one hit away from glory. Yes, 4 runs away from burying all the sorrows of the past, 4 runs away from gifting Sachin his first ever World Cup and 4 runs away from becoming the World Champions. As a helpless Nuwan Kulasekara pitched up a length ball around off-stump, Dhoni flexed his muscles and sent the ball into the stands for a huge six. The whole of Wankhede - along with a billion others watching on television - erupted instantaneously and it was pure joy and elation for the whole nation. The words “And Dhoni, finishes it off in style” still reverberates around the ears of every India to date; such was the effect of that one hit, such was the enormity of that occasion. This hit, without a doubt, is the single biggest moment in Indian cricket history.