Former India captain Sourav Ganguly was extremely keen to have MS Dhoni as the wicket-keeper on the historic tour of Pakistan in 2004. However, former Indian cricket team coach John Wright has now revealed that the lad from Ranchi narrowly missed out on the opportunity.
“MS Dhoni nearly toured with us to Pakistan. Sourav was very keen to have him in the squad. He was on the borderline, and it was one of those decisions that could have gone either way...That was obviously when Dhoni had started to come into discussions at the national level. Sourav had very good things to say about him and always encouraged youngsters who came into the set-up,” Wright said in an interview to IANS.
As it turned out, Parthiv Patel got the nod for the three-Test series, which incidentally, was the first to be played between the two nations in 15 years. Rahul Dravid, meanwhile, donned the wicket-keeping gloves in the five ODIs.
India won the Test series 2-1 and beat the hosts in the limited-overs leg 3-2.
MS Dhoni, however, made his ODI debut in December that very year against Bangladesh and while his Test bow came a year later against Sri Lanka.
John Wright, who served as India’s first foreign coach between 2000 and 2005, lauded MS Dhoni’s tactical acumen and eagerness to pick up things.
“It was obvious that MS Dhoni was not only a very gifted cricketer but also an extremely intelligent one. He was a very good listener who didn’t say much in his first series [under me], but was observing and learning all the time. I thought at the time that he had a big future in front of him,” said Wright, adding that MS Dhoni read the game an over ahead of others.
The versatility of MS Dhoni
The former Kiwi opener heaped praise on MS Dhoni’s ability to smoothly increase the tempo while batting and adjust to different match situations. While everyone remembers MS Dhoni’s first international hundred – 148 runs off 123 balls – against Pakistan in Visakhapatnam, Wright recalled the fourth ODI of the series in which Dhoni scored a 64-ball 47.
“[Dhoni] came in after openers Sachin Tendulkar and Sehwag had put on a good stand and he came in at No. 3. The most interesting thing was that he was quite happy just to rotate the strike and give the batsman who was in, and I thought that it was really intelligent and smart cricket. And that was one of his characterstics not only as a cricketer but as a leader, particularly in one-day cricket, throughout his career,” Wright further added.
Apart from being the only captain to win all three ICC trophies – the World T20 in 2007, the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2011 and the Champions Trophy in 2013, MS Dhoni is only the second wicket-keeper to score more than 10,000 runs in ODI cricket. In 350 games, the Indian managed 10,773 runs at an average of 50.57.