MS Dhoni’s 11 unforgettable finishes in ODIs

MS Dhoni, born on July 7, 1981, is unarguably the finest finisher the world has seen. Though Michael Bevan made a name as a clinical finisher in the bygone past, Dhoni revolutionised the approach to chasing and has surpassed the Australian with his remarkable feats. Dhoni has featured in 92 successful One-Day Internationals (ODI) chases, Dhoni averages an impressive 97.36 with two tons and 16 fifties. Nishad Pai Vaidya picks 11 finishes by Dhoni that underlines his genius. 

1.  A sign of things to come — 67 vs Zimbabwe at Harare, Tri-series, 2005

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Dhoni’s first fifty in a successful run-chase came in tough circumstances. This innings has lost its place in Dhoni’s enviable list of exploits but deserves a mention. Against a weak Zimbabwe side in 2005, India stuttered at 91 for five around the half-way mark in pursuit of 251. Talks of an upset did the rounds, but Dhoni had other ideas. The Yuvraj-Dhoni association began with this game as they stitched a 158-run stand. Dhoni’s knock was largely controlled as he got to his fifty in 54 balls. He went on to get 67 not out and sealed the game with a six.

2.  A warning to all teams — 183 not out vs Sri Lanka at Jaipur, 3rd ODI, 2005

With those long locks, Dhoni had an intimidating look. Add to that, the ability to clear the ropes and you had a bowler’s biggest nightmare. In 2005, Dhoni had cemented his spot in the one-day side with some good performances, particularly the 148 against Pakistan. But, the innings that made the world take notice of the Indian dasher was his terrific 183 not out against Sri Lanka at Jaipur. Set a target of 299, India lost Tendulkar in the first over. Dhoni walked out at No. 3 to join Sehwag with a huge task ahead! What followed was utter carnage. Pacers were smacked through the line, spinners were swept and driven powerfully. The men at the other end went unnoticed as Dhoni completed one milestone after the other. The sparkling innings featured 15 fours and 11 sixes, taking India home with almost four overs to spare. The next highest score in the Indian run-chase was a mere 39! The 183 not out off 145 balls was also the highest score in a successful run-chase until 2011. Dhoni had arrived on the world stage!

3.  Winning Parvez Musharraf’s praise — 72 not out vs Pakistan at Lahore, 3rd ODI, 2006

Dhoni’s cricketing stakes rose through 2005-06 as he was a catalyst in India’s success in one-day cricket. The tour to Pakistan in 2006 is a landmark in his career for it showed that there was maturity within the apparent dasher. Tendulkar’s 95 helped India start their run-chase of 289 solidly on a track which had some help for the seamers. India found themselves at 190 for five in the 35th over with Dhoni joining Yuvraj Singh. In that pressure, Dhoni played with gay abandon and smashed the bowling to all-parts. He looked invincible as he reached his fifty in 35 balls. A solid knock from Yuvraj at the other end was eclipsed by this stellar display. Dhoni finished with 72 not out off 46 balls with 13 fours, winning the game for India with 14 balls to spare. At the end of the game, the then Pakistan president Parvez Musharraf took the microphone, congratulated Dhoni and said, “I saw a placard asking you to have a haircut. But, if you were to take my opinion, you look good in this haircut.”

4.  An encore of Lahore — 77 not out vs Pakistan at Karachi, 5th ODI, 2006

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Dhoni’s knock in the third ODI at Lahore in 2006 had won him many laurels. With the series in the bag, India headed to Karachi for the final ODI, eager to sign off on a high. India’s pursuit of 287 began gradually and the rate kept mounting as the innings progressed. With Rahul Dravid dismissed, Dhoni walked in the 31st over with 146 left to win. Along with Yuvraj, Dhoni commenced yet another pursuit against time. While there was no pressure to win, this innings stands out on pure quality of strokeplay. India needed 82 off the last 10 overs, which was quite an ask in those pre T20-days. Both batsmen shifted gears and toyed with the clueless Pakistan bowlers. Dhoni saved his best for the last as he struck four sixes in the spare of two overs to take India home with 19 balls to spare. India won the series 4-1.

5.  Redemption begins — 91 not out vs Bangladesh at Dhaka, 1st ODI, 2007

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Indian cricket was at crossroads in 2007. Having suffered the ignominy of a first round exit at the World Cup in the Caribbean, thanks to a defeat to Bangladesh, India were left to lick their wounds. As luck would have it, their first assignment after the big event was in Bangladesh. Dhoni had faced the fans’ ire after that defeat, with a group attacking his house under construction in Ranchi. Eager to set things right, he came with a mission to Bangladesh. India faced the possibility of another embarrassment in the first ODI when they were reduced to 144 for five in the 29th over, chasing 251 in 47. Dhoni (batting at No. 3 that day) was battling cramps but stayed through to anchor the innings with Dinesh Karthik. Tempering his usual aggression, he stroked 91 runs in 106 balls with only seven fours. India got home with an over to spare and commenced their redemption after a tough phase!

6.  Donning a new role — 50 not out vs Sri Lanka at Adelaide, Tri-series, 2008

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Until Dhoni was named captain, he was a dasher who wanted to tear into every bowling attack. Once handed the captaincy, responsibility crept in which made him one of the finest finishers in world cricket. Consider this: He scored 50 not out against Sri Lanka at Adelaide to win a game, without hitting a boundary. This would have been unimaginable a few months before that game. India were set a target of 239 and were going along well thanks to Yuvraj’s typically flashy innings. Once he was dismissed with the score on 158 in the 33rd over, Sri Lanka sensed a chance. Irfan Pathan gave Dhoni good company before he fell for 30. Though the required rate was well under control, but wickets were a problem. Ultimately, India were down to Ishant Sharma with the batting novice Munaf Patel to come. Dhoni merely worked the strike over and kept hopes alive. With three to get off the final over, Farveez Maharoof bowled a wide. Dhoni then hit the next through the off-side and sprinted for a couple to finish the game.

7.  A six in the last over — 46 not out vs West Indies at St Lucia, 3rd ODI, 2009

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In a rain-shortened encounter, India were chasing 159 in 22 overs. With a good start from the openers, Dhoni walked in at No. 3 and took charge of the situation. However, West Indies fought back with wickets as India inched closer. Dhoni was a picture of remarkable calm through that. It boiled down to the last over, with 11 needed. Yusuf Pathan scampered a leg-bye to get Dhoni back on strike. Dhoni smashed Jerome Taylor for a huge six over the leg-side, which effectively won India the game. The last four runs were knocked off with ease. This is perhaps one of the first games where Dhoni showed his prowess of finishing games in the last over.

8.  The biggest of them all — 91 not out vs Sri Lanka at Mumbai, Final, ICC Cricket World Cup 2011

This will remain Dhoni’s most iconic and defining innings. A run-chase in a World Cup final, under pressure and on home soil; can the occasion get any bigger! Chasing 275 to win the title in Mumbai, India lost Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag early. Virat Kohli and Gautam Gambhir steadied the ship, but with the former dismissed with the score on 114 for three in the 22nd over, the game was in the balance. Yuvraj Singh had been India’s talisman through the tournament, but Dhoni put his hand up and walked in to bat at No. 5 on the big day. Starting off with singles, Dhoni then pierced the gaps through the off-side with ease. Muttiah Muralitharan and Suraj Randiv had no answers to his measured strokeplay. Though Gambhir was dismissed as India got closer, Dhoni held his calm and finished the chase with that big six over long-on. The 91 not out bears testimony to his Monk-like calmness.  India  won the title after 28 years, but captain restrained reactions when all of India exploded in unprecedented joy seemed like it was just another day in the office! Of course, in many ways, it was for him!

9.  Saving it for the last — 44 not out vs Australia at Adelaide, Tri-series, 2012

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India were in command of their run-chase of 270 against Australia at Adelaide with Gambhir giving them a good start. Australia saw a ray of hope when they had India at 178 for four in the 35th over. Dhoni and Suresh Raina commenced the job of taking India through. While Raina looked at his fluent best, picking his opportunities to score, Dhoni cut a sorry figure. He was struggling to get it off the square and merely knocking it around uncharacteristically for singles. As India came closer, the rate was mounting and they lost Raina and Jadeja. With 13 needed off the last over, Ravichandran Ashwin took strike to Clint McKay. Ashwin only managed a single off the second, which left India with 12 to get off four balls. McKay pitched the ball on a decent length and Dhoni smashed it with all his energy over long-on. The straight boundary at Adelaide are long, but was dwarfed by the power of that hit. With six needed of three, Dhoni knocked them off with two balls to spare, thanks to a no-ball.

10.  Stunning the Lankans —45 not out vs Sri Lanka at Port-of-Spain, Tri-series final, 2013

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On a tough wicket at the Queens Park Oval, India were chasing 202 to win the tri-series final. Rohit Sharma kept things in check and India were well on course to victory at 139 for three in the 32nd over. That is when Sri Lanka hit back with regular wickets and had India in great trouble. Dhoni walked in at No. 6 and watched helplessly at the other end as Rangana Herath tightened things with a remarkable spell of four for 20. With wickets falling, Dhoni kept his calm and picked his runs with ease, knowing that if he took it to the final over, India had a chance to win. With 17 needed off two overs, the last man Ishant Sharma played out the penultimate, leaving Dhoni with 15 off the last. Shaminda Eranga, the young fast bowler, was visibly nervous as he ran into bowl. Dhoni missed the first one, but smashed the next ball high over long-off for a six. The next ball flew over point for a four and the match was sealed with a bullet over long-off. The Zen-like Dhoni merely smiled as his teammates were over-the moon!

11.  Saving India the blushes — 85 not out vs Zimbabwe at Auckland, ICC Cricket World Cup 2015

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India had won all their matches in the group phase heading into the final encounter against Zimbabwe. Though an inconsequential game, India need to win to maintain momentum going into the quarter-final. Brendan Taylor’s sparkling ton in his farewell game helped Zimbabwe put up 287. In reply, India stuttered and found themselves at 92 for four in the 23rd over with Dhoni and Raina in the middle. In tandem, they reconstructed the innings, starting slow and then attacking the bowling. Dhoni was sedate when compared to Raina, who scored a ton. However, in the slog overs, Dhoni turned it on to find boundaries and absorb the pressure. They made it look very easy and Dhoni finished it off with a typical six! The embarrassment of losing to Zimbabwe before a crunch game was averted.

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Mumbai-based cricket journalist and one of the youngest to cover the three major cricketing events — ICC World Cup, World T20 and under-19 World Cup. He tweets as @nishad_45)