Even though he won India the inaugural World T20 in 2007 and took them to the summit of the ICC Test rankings two years later, the legend of MS Dhoni (Mahendra Singh Dhoni) was born and still lies in the 50-over format.
In a 15-year long illustrious ODI career, MS Dhoni scored 10,000 ODI runs at an average of 50.58. He had the third-highest number of dismissals by a wicketkeeper (444), most number of stumpings (123). But most importantly, he won the 50-over World Cup in 2011, the captain confirming the win by hitting the winning six off Nuwan Kulasekara.
MS Dhoni slotted himself down the order to give youngsters like Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma a go at the top. He has regularly been in Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja’s ears from behind the stumps.
It was MS Dhoni who ran up to Joginder Sharma or a young Hardik Pandya, putting an arm around them and asking them to back their own instincts, always epitomising that the whole has always been greater than the sum of parts for him.
MS Dhoni also played a lot of memorable innings, which buoyed India out of trouble. Let us have a look at five such knocks (in chronological order):
5 memorable MS Dhoni innings in ODIs:
1. Sri Lanka (Sawai Mansingh Stadium): October 31, 2005
This knock came at a time when MS Dhoni had just begun his career with a string of low scores and then a masterful 148 against Pakistan in Vizag while batting at number three.
However, in the series against Sri Lanka, he was again asked to bat at number six. After making 38 in the first match, MS Dhoni did not get to bat in the second one. Down 0-2 in the series, Sri Lanka posted a massive 298 for 4 in the third ODI.
India lost Sachin Tendulkar in the very first over of their chase. That was when MS Dhoni walked in and took the Sri Lankan attack of Chaminda Vaas, Farveez Maharoof and Muttiah Muralitharan to the cleaners, even as none of the other Indian batsmen crossed 40.
MS Dhoni finished on an unbeaten and unbelievable 183 off 145 balls, his highest ODI score, as India got home with 23 balls to spare. He scored his runs at a strike rate of 126.2, hitting 15 boundaries and ten sixes, in what was then a pre-T20 era.
India won the ODI series 6-1, and MS Dhoni finished as the highest run-getter in the series, amassing 346 runs at an average of 115.33.
2. Pakistan (Gaddafi Stadium): February 13, 2006
By this time, MS Dhoni was asked to play the role of a finisher, and he was doing a pretty decent job. The Indian team were low on confidence after losing the Test series 0-1, but MS Dhoni had his chin up after stroking his maiden Test century in the second Test in Faisalabad.
The limited-overs leg was level at 1-1 when the teams arrived in Lahore. During the innings break, 2-1 in favour of Pakistan seemed likely after the hosts set an imposing target of 289.
The writing seemed to be on the wall for India after they were reduced to 190 for 5 in the 35th over. With 100 more runs to get in 90 balls, MS Dhoni, came out at number seven to join forces with Yuvraj Singh.
MS Dhoni turned the match on its head as balls flew to various parts of the Gaddafi Stadium. Dhoni scored 72 off just 46 deliveries, hitting 13 boundaries, as India won with 14 balls remaining. That innings from MS Dhoni won him accolades even from then Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf.
The duo of MS Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh again got together in the final ODI. They put together a third-wicket partnership of 146 runs as India won the series 4-.
MS Dhoni finished on an unbeaten 77 off 56 balls, taking his series tally to 219 runs. He remained not out in three of the four innings in that series, thus cementing his place as the finisher of the side.
3. Sri Lanka (Wankhede Stadium); April 2, 2011
MS Dhoni emulated Kapil Dev and Sourav Ganguly by becoming the third Indian captain to lead India to the final of the 50-over World Cup. With the final held in Mumbai, the country yearned for a second triumph in the quadrennial tournament.
Coming into the final, MS Dhoni had scored a meagre 150 runs in eight matches. After the first innings, the match looked like Sri Lanka’s to lose as Mahela Jayawardene’s 103 off 88 balls meant that India had to pull off the highest-ever successful run chase in a World Cup final.
Chasing 275, India lost both Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar with only 31 runs on the board.
When Virat Kohli departed with the team score reading 114, the crowd at the Wankhede Stadium was stunned when it was MS Dhoni instead of Yuvraj Singh who walked out to bat at number five.
After promoting himself up the batting order, MS Dhoni belied his indifferent form to take control of the match before finishing with a flourish. The reason behind this move surfaced much later. Dhoni felt that Muralitharan would fancy his chances against the left-handed Yuvraj, while he would play the off-spinner better, having already played with him while with the Chennai Super Kings.
MS Dhoni had pitched this idea to India's then coach Gary Kirsten who didn’t even bat an eyelid before giving in to the proposal. One of the more famous quotes of Kirsten in this regard:
“I would go to war with Dhoni by my side.”
And indeed, Dhoni once again aced the finisher’s role, finishing on an unbeaten 91 off 79 balls, scoring the winning runs with a six to win India the World Cup.
4. England (Lord’s): September 11, 2011
It was the penultimate match of a long and forgettable tour when India came to Lord’s having lost all but one match in the ODI series. That match was washed out due to rain. India were whitewashed in the Test series 0-4, lost the one-off T20I match and were down 0-2 in the 50-over leg of the tour as well.
It looked set to become 0-3 as the English attack reduced the visitors to 110 for four in the 26th over. That was when MS Dhoni joined his CSK teammate Suresh Raina at the crease, and the duo put up an absolute carnage at the home of cricket.
The fifth-wicket partnership of 169 runs between MS Dhoni and Suresh Raina came off 143 balls and propelled India to 280 for five. Dhoni scored an unbeaten 78 off 71 deliveries on a spicy Lord’s wicket against the likes of Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann.
It was only Ravi Bopara’s phenomenal 96 that helped England tie the game after the Duckworth-Lewis method had reduced England’s target to 271 runs from 48.5 overs.
It was the only other match on that tour that India did not lose as MS Dhoni finished the series as the highest run-getter, amassing 236 runs at an average of 78.66.
5. Sri Lanka (Queen’s Park Oval): July 11, 2013
It was the final of the tri-nation series, which included the West Indies as well. India had staged a remarkable comeback to reach the final after losing their first two matches. They, however, looked destined to lose the final despite bundling Sri Lanka out for a paltry 201.
India were staring down the barrel at 182 for nine in the 47th over as Ishant Sharma arrived at the wicket to join skipper MS Dhoni. And as Dhoni likes to do and has so often done in his career, he took the game to the wire.
With India requiring 15 runs off the last over, MS Dhoni took guard against Shaminda Eranga. He called for a new bat, preferably a heavier one, but he failed to put the new willow to ball as the equation reduced to 15 off 5 balls.
The next three balls then went for 6, 4, 6. In what was a very MS Dhoni innings, he finished on an unbeaten 45 off 52 balls to help India win the tri-series with two balls left.
In the process, not only did MS Dhoni enhance his reputation as one of the best finishers in the game, he also made the entire cricketing world privy to a fast bowler named Shaminda Eranga. For the record, it was only the second time he batted in the entire tournament, but he made such an impact.
Now, August 15 will not only be remembered as India’s Independence Day but also the day one of the country’s finest captains decided to hang up his boots. But, much like these five innings and several more that MS Dhoni played throughout his career, he will remain not out forever in the hearts of avid cricket fans.