On the eve of MS Dhoni\'s 200th ODI, we celebrate some of his memorable 50-over performances.
Tomorrow, at the Adelaide Oval, Indian captain MS Dhoni will play his 200th one-day international. No Indian wicketkeeper-batsman has reached the landmark - the previous highest was Nayan Mongia's 140 ODI caps - and to commemorate Dhoni's achievement, we look back at some of his most memorable ODI performances.
148 v Pakistan, Visakhapatnam, 2004-05
Promoted to No. 3 for the second match of India's series against Pakistan, Dhoni repaid the faith with a spectacular innings - 148 off 123 balls, his maiden ODI century. The long-haired Jharkhand wicketkeeper's ODI scores before this match read 0, 12, 7* and 3, but he had done enough on the domestic circuit and for India A to prompt Sourav Ganguly to send Dhoni up the order, and how it paid off.
Initially a bit nervous, Dhoni came out of his shell to bludgeon the ball across the stadium with sheer disdain. His driving and cutting was particularly fierce, and when the spinners came on they were treated like net bowlers. Nothing could stop Dhoni, not even a swarm of bees that sent the players to the ground during a brief interruption. His innings contained 15 fours and four sixes, and propelled India to match-winning total of 356.
183* v Sri Lanka, Jaipur, 2005-06
A superb display of power-hitting from Dhoni made an imposing Sri Lankan total look trifling at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium, and the manner in which India's wicketkeeper bludgeoned the visitors' attack was frightful. Set a target of 299, India cruised to a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series with 23 balls to spare, thanks to a rousing 145-ball 183 not out from Dhoni, the highest score by a wicketkeeper in ODI cricket.
Again promoted to No. 3 three after Sachin Tendulkar was out to the fifth ball of India's chase, Dhoni lifted the spirit of the team and fans with his outstanding hitting. His mantra was simple: hit on the rise and come down the track to the spinners. Chaminda Vaas was twice launched over extra cover for six, Muttiah Muralitharan was adeptly maneuvered into the gaps and Upul Chandana effortlessly swung over square leg for two sixes. When the Powerplays were on, Dhoni again lifted his tempo to score 32 of the 45 runs taken off that five-over block. Batting with a runner for the last 53 runs of his amazing innings owing to cramps, Dhoni relied on bat speed and superb hand-eye coordination to hasten India's victory.
"Anyone who watched it at the ground and on television will agree that it is one of the great one-day innings of all time," said Rahul Dravid of Dhoni's knock. "Significantly, he kept wickets for 50 overs and batted for 46 overs."
72* v Pakistan, Lahore, 2005-06
Chasing a target of 289, India were taken home from 190 for 5 in the 35th over with 14 balls to spare thanks largely to Dhoni's unbeaten innings. His 46-ball 72 made a mockery of the conditions and the casually violent manner in which he slammed the Pakistan attack was startling. With Yuvraj Singh (79*) for company, Dhoni drove the quicks with a full face of the bat and pulled strongly past square leg when they dropped short. With a flurry of big shots, the chase was completed on the back of Dhoni's whirlwind 72 in a partnership of 102 with Yuvraj.
63 v Pakistan, Guwahati, 2007-08
Another chase against Pakistan, another Dhoni special. On a sluggish surface at the Nehru Stadium, it was Dhoni's approach at the crease that delivered India a five-wicket win in what was otherwise a bland match. Chasing 240, India lost Tendulkar cheaply and Dravid and Gautam Gambhir after they got starts, but a 105-run alliance between Dhoni and Yuvraj settled the issue.
All throughout the match batsmen on both sides had struggled to belt the cover off the ball, but Dhoni had few troubles with the nature of the track. There were some streaky boundaries, but otherwise Dhoni waded into Pakistan's bowling attack with big hits. With Yuvraj again proving an excellent ally, Dhoni struck the ball powerfully against fast bowling and spin to hasten India's win.
During the process, he became the first Indian wicketkeeper to score 2500 ODI runs and Dhoni's 77-ball 63 was his 19th half-century, surpassing Dravid's record of 18.
76 v Sri Lanka, Colombo, 2008
Proof that Dhoni had moulded his game superbly to the needs of his team was on ample view at the Premadasa Stadium, where his busy innings of 76 left India one win away from their first ODI series win in Sri Lanka. In what had been a difficult tour, Dhoni stepped up as leader and batsman to lift India's spirits and walked away with the Man-of-the-Match award.
Walking to the crease at 91 for 4 in the 22nd over after another collapse by the top order, Dhoni assessed the situation. He didn't go boom from the start, instead relying on some terrific running to take the momentum from Sri Lanka. Dhoni formed two fifty partnerships - with himself as the leader - to resurrect the innings, and the significant factor in India's recovery was how Dhoni blunted the threat of Murali and Ajantha Mendis. His running between the wickets was excellent, and as he grew in confidence, Dhoni pulled out the cuts and drives against the slow men.
His 76 off 80 balls was an outstanding effort, and made the difference between victory and defeat.
46* v West Indies, St Lucia, 2009
In a rain-affected chase, Dhoni's cool unbeaten hand delivered India a six-wicket win in the final over. West Indies' innings was delayed by two hours and interrupted by rain thrice, and further intervals initially readjusted India's target to 195 in 27 overs before another rain delay reduced it to 159 in 22 overs.
India went into the last over needing 11 to win, after Dwayne Bravo conceded just five in an excellent penultimate over. Amid frantic scenes - the electronic scorecard at the ground had blanked out, forcing India's coach Gary Kirsten to relay required scores to the batsmen in the middle - Dhoni smacked the second ball from Jerome Taylor over midwicket for six to leave his team on course for victory. The remaining four runs were sealed with a ball to spare.
Until the last over, Dhoni had marshaled the chase calmly while ensuring not to throw his wicket away even as his partners came and went. He picked up the odd boundary to keep the asking rate within manageable reach and then finished the game with that six in the final over. With it, India took the series.
"Someone like Dhoni can hit the ball out the ground at any time so it was comforting knowing that we had him at the crease controlling the game," said Kirsten in awe of the captain.
124 v Australia, Nagpur, 2009-10
Dhoni was unstoppable on the day, slamming an excellent 107-ball 124 to propel India to their highest total against Australia, 354 for 7, which proved more than enough for victory.
It was a superbly paced effort; Dhoni hit just one boundary in the first 28 balls he faced and two more before he reached his fifty off 55 balls. Then he chose the batting Powerplay to erupt; Mitchell Johnson was slapped down the ground in an 18-run over, Ben Hilfenhaus was hit over midwicket for a flat six and Shane Watson was twice dumped over long-off as Dhoni reached his century - a first against Australia - in 94 balls.
Walking down and hitting the fast bowlers with that mighty bottom hand, Dhoni scored 54 off his last 27 balls to send the crowd into a tizzy. The 136 runs he added with Raina in 93 balls was India's second-highest for the fifth wicket against Australia and helped set up a 99-run win, India's biggest win over this opposition in eight years.
91* v Sri Lanka, Mumbai, 2010-11
Promoting himself up the order in the World Cup final, Dhoni shrugged off a poor run in the tournament with the innings of his life. After the pain of 1996, the heartbreak of 2003 and the humiliation of 2007, India surged to their second title success on the back of Gautam Gambhir's knock and his alliance with Dhoni, which shut Sri Lanka out of the contest after they had reduced the favourites to 114 for 3 chasing 275.
Striding in ahead of the in-form Yuvraj, Dhoni send a strong signal to the Sri Lankans, and it ushered in the defining partnership of the match. After a poor tournament, Dhoni too picked the biggest stage to turn up. When the seamers pitched full, he timed the ball excellently, with the highlight being his handling of Lasith Malinga. When he pitched full, Dhoni drove down the ground and through cover; when Malinga banged it short, Dhoni responded very well with his shuffled shots off the hips. Gambhir continued to use his feet, and with Dhoni coming out and striking the ball sweetly from the off, India stayed on course.
After Gambhir departed, Dhoni cut a six over backward point and despite a few nervy moments between the wickets, the end came rather comfortably amid a flurry of boundaries from Dhoni. The winning hit came via a monstrous six, cuing absolute pandemonium in the ground.
44* v Australia, Adelaide, 2011-12
Without blinking or betraying a hint of emotion, a supremely calm Dhoni - the modern-day iceman - took India to victory with two balls to spare in a win that gave a beleaguered India plenty to cheer about.
Until the final over of India's successful chase of 270, Dhoni had not played a shot in anger. His first and last boundary shot came after he had played 56 deliveries, and the confidence with which he deposited Clint McKay rows back into the stands for a six off the third ball of the final over was stunning. Dhoni, unaccustomed to showing emotion, compared that six to the World Cup final six.
It was a restrained, calculated innings in which Dhoni's application stood out.