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A milestone in sight for Dhoni

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MS_Dhoni_India_Cricket_runsIn a previous article, I wrote about Kohli’s ODI hundreds and how often those hundreds had won matches for India. It was also about how Kohli deserved to become the sixth cricketer to get to a 200 in ODIs…and in the longer run, surpass the seemingly unassailable record set by Sachin Tendulkar.

This piece, however, is about his predecessor who is now playing in the ODI and T20 formats under Kohli’s captaincy – the one and only Mahendra Singh Dhoni. He called it quits from Test cricket only 10 matches short of a milestone – 100 Test appearances. Judging by his consistency in scoring in ODIs off late, one may very well surmise that he is in a hurry to get to the 10,000 run mark before the end of this year…this is a milestone he would not want to miss.

In a hurry, I said? Well, as I write this, Dhoni is 36-years-and-almost-three-months old. My French-Indian friend who is a great cricket fan – Pascal – sent me a message when Dhoni scored 79 against Australia at Chennai. He said that he was happy to see the ‘oldie still playing a key role in Indian victories’. We were almost a decade older than the ‘oldie’… In cricket, 36+ is old. Yes, many retire by that time…some stretch it out to 39 or 40. But that is rare indeed.

Well, I would want to see MSD play for India at least till the 7th of July 2021, when he would be 40 years old, as his composure and calm demeanour on the field – a stoic ‘sthitapragnya’ if one may say so -  combined with his experience has been a blessing for the youngsters in the Indian team. Be it Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who batted so well in MSD’s company in Sri Lanka, or Hardik Pandya who did the same on more than one occasion, or Kohli for that matter, who would be finding MSD’s presence in the side comforting indeed.  

But we know that he may decide to call it quits even when he is in good nick just to make room for youngsters (Rishabh Pant is knocking on the door), just as he did in Test cricket, allowing a good cricketer like Saha to take his place and just as he did with his captaincy in all forms of the game, to hand over the baton to Virat Kohli. So, seeing him reach 10,000 runs in ODIs (on the 25th of September, before the start of the ODI against Australia in Bengaluru, he has 9,745 runs at the very healthy average of 52) will be comforting indeed for many of us who respect MSD as an exemplary sportsman (I say ‘sportsman’ because after watching his biopic, I realised that he started off wanting to play football!).

And if the 10,000th happens to come about with a helicoptered-six, which also takes India to victory at the same time, in some crucial encounter against a strong side on foreign soil, that would truly be the icing on the cake. Well, the present is good for MSD; the future is what we are all eagerly looking forward to.

It is apt to go back to the 5th of April 2005, a hot day in Andhra Pradesh when he cracked 148 (41% of his team’s 350+ score) batting at number three against Pakistan to win the match for India and also to bag what would be the first of many Man-of-the-Match Awards in ODIs. His second hundred, which happened to be an unconquered effort – 183 not out – was a match and Man of the Match winning effort. This came about in the same year against the Lankans in Jaipur, on a relatively cooler day of the year.

Now, just think what could have happened if he had gone ahead to get those 17 runs to reach the 200-mark. He would have been the first cricketer to score a double hundred in ODIs! Tendulkar, Sehwag, Rohit Sharma, Gayle and Guptill got there much later. In between these two big hundreds on home soil, he got two half centuries abroad – in Zimbabwe; both being matches which India easily won.

Getting to the third ton required a little more patience and effort, as he managed 11 half-centuries en route, five of which were unbeaten knocks. Four of these were scored against Pakistan, two each against Sri Lanka and the West Indies, and one each against Bangladesh, England (in this one, he fell short of a hundred by 4 runs) and South Africa. Seven of these 11 matches were won by India, and MSD bagged the MoM award in two of these seven. En route to his 4th ton, MSD got his first half century against the Aussies.

Over a year passed by before he could get his 5th – this one at Nagpur against the Aussies; 124 off a team-total of 354, in a winning cause. He would then go on to skipper the side beginning on the 11th of September 2007. As skipper (a cap he donned till the beginning of 2017, when he passed this as well to Virat Kohli), he did what Ganguly had experimented with many times when Dhoni was a youngster on the side…MSD batted at number three once in a while, after gauging the situation and the conditions. Astute, responsible and calmly confident. It was four years after he took over as the skipper that brought home the ICC World Cup…making one Mr KDN proud in the process. KDN had got it to India for the first time on the 25th of June 1983.

Captaincy did not deter his appetite for runs. His big knocks kept coming, many in winning causes, a handful paired with MoM awards. He remained not out in 26 of his 60 half-centuries and 6 of his 10 hundreds. Two of the hundreds and 50% of the 50s were scored when India batted second. If Dhoni remained unbeaten on a 50-plus or a 100-plus score with India chasing, he almost always made sure that India clinched the issue. Except in one case - against Pakistan on the 3rd of January 2013, in which Dhoni remained unbeaten on 54 and India fell short by 85 runs.

One gem of an innings which every reader would recall is the 79-ball 91 with 8 boundaries and two sixes (the second one getting India home, being the last shot of the match). Opponents – Sri Lanka. Venue – Mumbai. Date – 2nd April 2011, almost 6 years after he had scored his first ODI century against Pakistan, a few hundred kilometres to the south-east of this venue. Tournament – Well, anybody’s guess!

If MSD gets to bat in every ODI against the Aussies, perhaps, he would get very close to the 10,000-run mark, or maybe even surpass it…perhaps scoring his 11th ODI hundred in the process? Exciting times lie ahead as he is trying to make the most of his opportunities to score for Team India.

Those of you who have not watched MS Dhoni – The Untold Story, please do. It would help a lot in understanding MSD the cricketer…and the adjectives I have used to describe him in this article.

(Editor’s note: Neither this author nor this website has received money from MS Dhoni – The Untold Story. If someone wishes to give us money, we would not object.)

 

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G Venkatesh (born 1972) is a senior lecturer in Energy and Environment, at Karlstad University in S...

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