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Analysing MS Dhoni's performances in must-win games for India in ICC ODI events

20.26K   //    19 Oct 2017, 18:30 IST

Is MS Dhoni really as good a finisher as people make him out to be?
Is MS Dhoni really as good a finisher as people make him out to be?

Often, when absorbing pressure and finishing games are spoken about, the first name that comes to mind is that of the legendary Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

His 91* in the Cricket World Cup final of 2011 is considered one of the best innings played by an Indian batsman under pressure.

However, his performance in India's must-win games is a story in itself. Let us delve deeper into all of India's must-win games and see how the legend of Indian cricket has fared.

Must-win games here are defined as games that, if lost, would mean the end of India's journey in an ICC event.

2006 Champions Trophy

India v/s Australia at Mohali - Oct 29, 2006

The scenario - India had won a game and lost a game and needed to beat Australia to qualify for the semi-finals.

The game - India batted first against a rampaging Australian team. When Rahul Dravid got out in the 41st over, Dhoni came in to bat for the first time in a must-win game in an ICC tournament.

Dhoni played a decent hand in the game as wickets tumbled at the other end, eventually ending up with 28 runs, getting out off the last ball of the innings.

India went on to lose the game comfortably.


Dhoni - 28(23) SR - 121.73

2007 Cricket World Cup

India v/s Sri Lanka at Port of Spain - March 23, 2007

Scenario - India lost the opener against Bangladesh and then mauled Bermuda to a pulp. To qualify, all India needed was to beat Sri Lanka as they had a far better NRR than Bangladesh.

The game - Sri Lanka posted a competitive 254 on the board in their allotted 50 overs. India started off shakily, losing Robin Uthappa, Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar with the scoreboard reading 44/3.

Dravid and Sehwag then offered some resistance with a 54-run stand before Sehwag was outfoxed by Muralitharan.

India then lost Yuvraj Singh reducing the equation to 143 required off 22.2 overs. Dhoni played a couple of dots before he was caught plumb in front off Murali's bowling.

India went on to lose that game and were ousted from the World Cup in the group stages.

Dhoni - 0(3) SR - 0.00

Note - The 2009 Champions Trophy did not have any must-win game for India as the second match was washed out due to rain, resulting in them being ousted from the tournament.

Dhoni put the Lankans to the sword
Dhoni put the Lankans to the sword in the final

2011 Cricket World Cup


India v/s Australia at Ahmedabad - Mar 24, 2011

The game - Australia won the toss and elected to bat at Ahmedabad. Riding on the back of a superb century by captain Ricky Ponting, Australia posted a competitive 260/6 on the board in their allotted 50 overs.

In response, India started off well and strung together a few partnerships before losing Virat Kohli and Gautam Gambhir in quick succession. Dhoni walked out to bat in a tricky situation with the scoreboard reading 168-4 in 33.2 overs. 93 runs were required off 100 balls with 6 wickets in hand.

Dhoni struck a boundary but couldn't do much as he was soon dismissed, caught at point off Brett Lee. India went on to win the game owing to a match-winning partnership between Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh.

Dhoni - 7(8) SR - 87.50


India v/s Pakistan at Mohali - Mar 30, 2011

The game - India won the toss and elected to bat first against Pakistan. After a good opening stand and a bit of consolidation, India lost two wickets off two balls to bring MSD to the crease. Dhoni played a painful knock of 25 before perishing to Wahab Riaz.

India went on to win the game by 29 runs, booking their place in the final.

Dhoni - 25(42) SR - 59.52


India v/s Sri Lanka at Mumbai - Apr 2, 2011

The game - A game that needs no introduction. In what would prove to be one of the best knocks in a World Cup final, Dhoni came out to bat when the score was 114-3 in 21.4 overs with the team needing 160 off 28.2 overs at 5.64 runs an over.

The rest is history. Etching a memorable 110 run stand with Gambhir and then finishing the game, Dhoni, who was completely out of form up until that point in the tournament, played the innings of his life.

Dhoni - 91*(79) SR - 115.18

2013 Champions Trophy


India v/s Sri Lanka at Cardiff - Jun 20, 2013

The game - India coasted to victory chasing a modest 181. Dhoni did not bat as India won by 8 wickets.

Dhoni - DNB


India v/s England at Birmingham - Jun 23, 2013

The game - In a rain-curtailed match, India never got off the blocks in the 20-overs-a-side game, ending with 129 from their allotted overs. Dhoni scored a duck in the final after walking out to bat in the 13th over.

India went on to win the game by 5 runs owing to a stupendous bowling performance.

Dhoni - 0(4) SR - 0.00

2015 Cricket World Cup


India v/s Bangladesh at Melbourne - Mar 19, 2015

The game - A game that belonged to Rohit Sharma. India batted first against neighbours Bangladesh to end up with 302/6 courtesy a masterful 137 by Rohit. Dhoni walked out to bat with six overs to spare but couldn't get going at all, scoring a painful 6 runs off 11 balls.

India went on to win the game and entered the semi-finals.

Dhoni - 6(11) SR - 54.54

Dhoni fought hard but fell at the end
Dhoni fought hard but fell at the end


India v/s Australia at Sydney - Mar 26, 2015

The game - Australia elected to bat first and scored a competitive 328-7, riding on the back of a century by captain Steven Smith.

India started off well in response but lost their way in the middle.

When Dhoni came out to bat, India were placed precariously at 108-4 in 23 overs, needing 221 runs in 27 overs at a daunting rate of 8.18.

Dhoni waged a lone battle, eventually ending up with a run-a-ball 65.

India went on to lose the game by 95 runs.

Dhoni - 65(65) SR - 100

2017 ICC Champions Trophy


India v/s Bangladesh at Birmingham - Jun 15, 2017

The game - India won the game with 9 wickets in hand after chasing 265. Dhoni did not get to bat in the game.

Dhoni - DNB

Dhoni's dismissal in the final ended India's hopes
Dhoni's dismissal in the final ended India's hopes


India v/s Pakistan at The Oval- Jun 18, 2017

The game - India won the toss and elected to field first against Pakistan, having started as firm favourites. Pakistan went on to score an above-par 338 thanks to a rampaging ton by Fakhar Zaman.

India, in reply, slumped to 33-3 in 9 overs after which Dhoni came out to bat.

There were no heroics from him this time as he got out playing a hook shot to Hasan Ali after scoring 4 runs.

India went on to lose the game by 180 runs.

Dhoni - 4(16) SR - 25.00


Dhoni's Record in Must Win Games for India
Dhoni's Record in must-win games for India


So, that's it, folks! Dhoni has played 11 games, scoring two fifties at an average of 28.25 and a strike rate of 90.03.

For someone considered a great player under pressure, the stats tell us an entirely different story.

The numbers are ordinary to say the least. But with one final opportunity left, it remains to be seen if Dhoni can set the record straight in 2019.

But, for now, it looks like the myth has been busted.