Dhoni bids farewell to international cricket in typical style
It came on India’s Independence Day via an Instagram post. No fanfare, no elaborate farewell, no hanging around for one last match. After nearly 16 years as an international cricketer, Mahendra Singh Dhoni called it a day.
For more than a year now, speculations over Dhoni’s future have been rife. Would he go? When would he go? How would he go? With the postponement of the ICC Twenty20 World Cup, originally scheduled to be played in Australia in October, to next year, thanks to the global pandemic, there was nothing left to wait for.
At nearly 40, Dhoni is getting on in years, but he has set the fitness bar so high that it was not the physicality of sport that was stopping him. Dhoni’s fans will get to watch him in top-flight action at least one more time when he leads his beloved Chennai Super Kings in the Indian Premier League next month.
The captain who won it all
When Dhoni first broke into the Indian team, he was little more than a brutally efficient batsman who kept wickets adequately. But, once he established himself in the team, across formats, it became clear that he was destined for bigger things.
Dhoni reinvented his 50-over batting, switching from explosive hitting to a middle-order batsman who could control the flow of an innings. In Twenty20 cricket, his acumen as a leader, came to the fore. While not what you would expect from a classical Test player, Dhoni was solid in the lower order, especially in home conditions, and behind the stumps, he was safe as houses.
It’s no wonder that he is rated so highly, given that Dhoni is the only captain to have won the World Cup, the Twenty20 World Cup, and the Champions trophy, the three global International Cricket Council trophies on offer. He also led India to the No. 1 position in Test cricket, and when you add his success in the IPL with the Chennai Super Kings, you have a man who won it all.
The tributes pour in from around the world
The respect with which Dhoni was held by his team-mates and opposition alike became obvious soon after he announced his retirement. Sachin Tendulkar, arguably the most popular cricketer of all time, led the tributes.
“Your contribution to Indian cricket has been immense, MS Dhoni. Winning the 2011 World Cup together has been the best moment of my life. Wishing you and your family all the very best for your 2nd innings,” said Tendulkar, who also revealed that he was impressed by Dhoni very early on.
In 2007 when Indian cricket was on the lookout for a new captain, it was Tendulkar who suggested that Dhoni was the right man for the job. “Back then, I used to stand in the slip cordon, and I used to interact with MS and understand what he was thinking, the field setting, and I would discuss all those aspects. I observed his match reading, and I concluded that he had a good cricketing brain, so I suggested to the board that this is what I feel. MS should be the next one to take charge.”
Virat Kohli, who played under Dhoni and is now India’s undisputed leader across formats, was equally effusive in his praise. “Every cricketer has to end his journey one day, but still when someone you’ve gotten to know so closely announces that decision, you feel the emotion much more,” said Kohli. “What you’ve done for the country will always remain in everyone’s heart, but the mutual respect and warmth I’ve received from you will always stay in mine. The world has seen achievements; I’ve seen the person. Thanks for everything skip. I tip my hat to you.”
Ricky Ponting, the Australian legend, alluded to battles past and forthcoming. “Congrats Dhoni on a brilliant international career. I loved and enjoyed every contest we had as players, and now I still have to find ways to stop you winning games against the Delhi Capitals.
I look forward to saying it in person in a few weeks.”
Adam Gilchrist, the first wicketkeeper-batsman of the modern era to go on to become a legend, saluted a member of the club. “Always a pleasure to play against you, Dhoni. You did it with style, flamboyance, and above all else, calmness,” said Gilchrist. “Your own way. The Dhoni way. Congrats on all you achieved.”
The numbers don’t lie
While Dhoni has been rightly praised for his leadership and for how he changed the face of Indian cricket, his achievements, purely from a statistical point of view, are staggering. Because of the force of his personality and his captaincy and how he caught the public imagination, these statistics tend to get overlooked.
Consider this: Dhoni is the only player to lead his team in 50+ matches in all formats. 60 Tests, 200 ODIS, and 72 T20Is.
Dhoni is also the only captain to average above 30 in T20Is (Min 500 runs), 40 in Tests (Min 1000 runs), and 50 in ODIs (Min 1000 runs). He averages 37.06 in T20Is, 40.63 in Tests, and 53.92 in ODIs as captain.
Dhoni averages 50.57 and is one of only two batsmen to average 50 and score 10,000 runs. Kohli is the other. Tendulkar comes closest at 44.83.
Dhoni has hit 229 sixes, second only to Rohit Sharma. Of these, 9 sixes were to finish games, more than any other batsman.
Dhoni has 7 centuries at No. 5 or lower. Joint highest with Yuvraj Singh and Jos Buttler.
Dhoni has been unbeaten in 84 ODIs. The most by any player. 51 in chases, of which 47 resulted in India wins.
Dhoni’s 183 v Sri Lanka in 2005 is the highest by a designated keeper. It’s also the joint second-highest score by anyone in a run chase.
Dhoni’s 444 dismissals are 3rd all-time, behind Kumar Sangakkara (482) and Adam Gilchrist (472). Of these, 123 were stumpings. No other wicketkeeper has 100 stumpings.
Only Ricky Ponting (265) and Stephen Fleming (218) have been a captain in more ODIs than Dhoni’s 200.
Dhoni has been captain and wicketkeeper in 200 ODIs. The next closest is Pakistan’s Sarfaraz Ahmed, with 50.
Dhoni’s average of 53.55 as wicketkeeper-captain is second only to AB de Villiers’ 71.45. But de Villiers did so over 30 ODIs to Dhoni’s 200.
In 108 chases of 300 or below, Dhoni averaged 60.48 with 29 scores of 50 or more and was not out 46 times.
Dhoni is the greatest finisher in ODI cricket. In successful chases, he averages 102.71 across 116 matches. The next best is Kohli, who averages 86.21 in 89 successful chases. Michael Bevan averaged 86.23 in 75 similar instances.
Gavaskar sums up Dhoni in an emotional address
Sunil Gavaskar, the former India captain and one of the greatest players to play the game, summed up what Dhoni meant to a grateful nation.
“A few days after the 2011 World Cup the IPL started, Chennai Super Kings (CSK) were playing their first match, and I was at the ground. I met MSD and said, ‘look in this world if I’ve got a couple of minutes left, I’m gonna ask someone to put that shot on because I’d love to see that shot and say goodbye to this world,” Gavaskar told India Today. “Because that would be a fantastic way, I’d go with a smile on my face. That’s exactly what I had said to MSD, and he was, of course, pretty modest about it. He smiled and didn’t say anything.”
Gavaskar was referring to the six Dhoni hit off Sri Lanka’s Nuwan Kulasekara to seal the 2011 World Cup win at home for India. That stroke was the icing on the cake for India, who waited 28 years since their maiden triumph in 1983.
Gavaskar, who was in the thick of things all those years ago, compared Kapil Dev, the man who inspired India’s original triumph, to Dhoni. “Both Dhoni and Kapil were very, very similar. Both had similar approaches to the game. They loved playing the game. Both of them loved being in the center of the action, and they wanted to achieve great things for their teams. In that way, both are very similar,” said Gavaskar.
“Yes, I think Dhoni will be very much a contender for captaining an all-time India XI. If you look at captaincy in one-day cricket for India, there would just be two guys who would come in the frame as far being captains, one is MS Dhoni, and one is Kapil Dev. I think these are the two contenders because they have won the others, have had very good performances, won bilateral series, but when it comes to winning World Cups, I think MS Dhoni has just a little edge over Kapil because he has not just won the 50-over World Cup but also the T20 World Cup. So I think he would be right up there.”