Mahendra Singh Dhoni is an Indian cricketer who led his country to two World Cup titles along with several accolades. Dhoni led India in limited-overs formats from 2007 to 2016 and in Test cricket from 2008 to 2014 and went on to become the most decorated skipper in the history of Indian cricket. After Sachin Tendulkar, Dhoni is perhaps the the most adored as well as criticised cricketer in the cricket-obsessed society of India.
What makes Dhoni’s incredible journey even more remarkable is that he did it all coming from the cricketing backwaters, Jharkhand. His unorthodox batting and wicketkeeping technique and street-smart captaincy made him stand apart from the rest. Under Dhoni’s captaincy, India won the top prize in all formats: the No.1 Test ranking for 18 months starting December 2009, the 50-over World Cup in 2011 and the World Twenty20 on his captaincy debut in 2007.
Dhoni’s life was shaping up in manner which he was perhaps not liking as he was working as a ticket inspector with the Indian Railways. However, his career took a huge turn when he blasted two centuries in a triangular 50-over tournament for India A in Nairobi in 2004. It did not take long for the long-haired boy wonder from Jharkhand to carve his own place in the history of Indian cricket. He became an instant darling of the crowds with ODI innings of 148 and 183 within a year of his debut. He went on to create his own legacy both as a batsman and a skipper.
Early life and career:
Dhoni was born and grew up in Ranchi, Bihar (now in Jharkhand). Dhoni has a sister Jayanti Gupta and a brother Narendra Singh Dhoni.
He did his schooling from DAV Jawahar Vidya Mandir, Shyamali, Ranchi, Jharkhand. Dhoni was into sports right from his childhood and initially excelled in badminton and football. He was a goalkeeper for his football team and was sent to play cricket for a local cricket club by his football coach. Though he had not played cricket, Dhoni impressed with his wicket-keeping skills and became the regular wicketkeeper at the Commando cricket club (1995–1998).
He impressed with his cricketing skills at the club level which paved the way for his selection for the 1997/98 season Vinoo Mankad Trophy Under-16 Championship. Between 2001 and 2003, he worked as Travelling Ticket Examiner (TTE) at Kharagpur railway station, under South Eastern Railway in Midnapore (W), a district in West Bengal.
Before becoming a Railway employee, Dhoni was selected by Deval Sahay to play for the Central Coal Fields Limited team in 1998. Prior to that, he had played only school cricket and club cricket. Dhoni’s performance impressed Sahay so much that he used his contacts in Bihar Cricket Association to push for his selection in the Bihar team.
Deval Sahay, an ex Bihar Cricket Association Vice-President, was the Ranchi District Cricket President at that time and played a big role in and was instrumental in Dhoni’s rise. Dhoni was selected in Ranchi team, junior Bihar cricket team and eventually senior Bihar Ranji Team for the 1999–2000 season within a year of playing in CCL.
Dhoni made his Ranji Trophy debut for Bihar in the 1999–2000 season at the age of eighteen. He made an instant impression, scoring 68 not out in the second innings of his debut match against Assam. Dhoni finished the season with 283 runs in 5 matches. His maiden first-class century for Bihar came against Bengal in the 2000/01 season.
Dhoni continued to impress in domestic cricket and his talent was discovered via the BCCI’s small-town talent-spotting initiative Training Research Development Wing (TRDW). Dhoni was discovered by TRDO Prakash Poddar when he saw Dhoni play for Jharkhand at a match in Jamshedpur in 2003, and sent a report to the National Cricket Academy.
He was finally rewarded for his performance with a spot in the India A squad for the tour of Zimbabwe and Kenya in 2003-04. In the tri-nation tournament involving Kenya, India A and Pakistan A, Dhoni helped India A chase down their target of 223 against Pakistan A with a half-century. He had then gone on to score two consecutive centuries – 120 and 119 not out – against Pakistan A. Dhoni finished the series with 362 runs in 6 innings at an average of 72.40.
Entry in international circuit:
The performance in domestic cricket and for India A helped Dhoni earn his maiden national call-up for the tour of Bangladesh in November 2004. However, his international career was off to a rather forgettable start as he was run-out for scored a duck in his first ODI. It was followed by a string of low scores.
But fortunately for Dhoni, the selectors and the then-captain Sourav Ganguly decided to give him an extended run and what an inspired decision it was. In his fifth ODI, Dhoni blew away Pakistan, scoring 148 at Vishakhapatnam in 2005. Later in the same year, he went one step further, smashing his way to a brutal 183* in Jaipur to make light work of an almost 300-run chase against Sri Lanka.
He received widespread praise for his cool and composed manner and earned the label of ‘Captain Cool’. He was soon handed the ODI leadership and was handed the Test captaincy too after the retirement of Anil Kumble in late 2008.
Dhoni had a brilliant start to his captaincy career. He led India to the top of test rankings for the very first time in 2009. After dominating at home, India drew a series in South Africa. Dhoni’s record in limited-overs was even more impressive as he reached the pinnacle of his captaincy career by leading the country to glory in the 2011 World Cup.
His captaincy came under scrutiny after some dismal results following the 2011 World Triumph. India suffered 8 successive Test losses in England and Australia. The Test team then hit the rock-bottom after losing 1-2 to England at home.
The respite came when he led India to a historic 4-0 whitewash against Australia at home in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. India became the first team in more than 40 years to whitewash Australia in a Test series and Dhoni now had the most Test wins for an Indian captain under his belt.
Amidst all this, Dhoni went on to enhance his reputation as one of the finest-ever finishers in the game. He led India to several victories from jaws of defeat, thus always ensuring that he led from the front.
Meanwhile, Dhoni’s fortunes as skipper once again changed in 2013. He led India to their second Champions Trophy triumph as they won the tournament in England undefeated. The win made him the first captain in history to win all three ICC global trophies.
He led the side to the final of the 2014 World T20 in Bangladesh where India lost to Sri Lanka. He had also led the team to the semi-final of the World T20 in 2016 in India where the team lost to eventual winners West Indies.
But the critics soon came out again after Dhoni’s Test captaincy failed to turn around the team’s fortunes. India lost series in England, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia- the last of which turned out to be the legendary skipper’s last adventure in whites.
He announced his retirement from Tests in 2014, moments after helping India draw the Boxing Day Test against Australia at Melbourne.
A couple of months later, Dhoni led India to the 2015 World Cup semi-final where they lost to eventual winners and hosts Australia. He continued to lead the side for more than a year before stepping down as limited-overs skipper on 4th January, 2017.
Awards and recognition:
Dhoni’s personal trophy cabinet is as impressive as one can dream of. He bagged the ICC ODI Player of the Year award in 2008 and 2009 (the first player to win the award twice), the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award in 2007, the Padma Shri, India’s fourth highest civilian honour, in 2009 and the Padma Bhushan in 2018.
He was named as the captain of the ICC World Test XI in 2009, 2010 and 2013. He has also been selected a record 8 times in ICC World ODI XI teams, 5 times as captain.
- Dhoni is the first Indian captain to lead India to the number one rankings in Tests.
- As captain, Dhoni holds the record for longest unbeaten run in Tests from his debut with 11 (8 wins and 3 draws) beating former Australian captain Warwick Armstrong’s 10.
- Dhoni is the first Indian wicket-keeper to complete 4,000 Test runs.
- With 27 wins, Dhoni is the most successful Indian Test captain.
- Dhoni also holds the dubious record of Indian skipper with most Test defeats overseas with 15.
- His maiden century against Pakistan in Faisalabad (148) is the fastest century scored by an Indian wicket-keeper, and fourth overall.
- With 294 dismissals in his career, Dhoni tops the all-time dismissals list by Indian wicket-keepers.
- Dhoni’s 224 against Australia in Chennai is the third highest score by an Indian captain.
- Dhoni is the first non-Australian captain and third overall to win 100 games.
- His unbeaten 183-run knock against Sri Lanka in 2005 is the highest score by a wicket-keeper.
- Dhoni holds the records of the most dismissals in an innings (6) and career (357) by an Indian wicket-keeper.
- Dhoni’s 113 against Pakistan in Chennai in 2012 is the highest by a captain batting at number 7.
- Dhoni is the first Indian and fifth overall to hit 200 sixes in ODIs.
- Dhoni holds the record of most number (120) of unbeaten knock in international cricket history. He surpassed Muttiah Muralitharan who had remained not-out on 119 occasions.
- Dhoni holds the record for playing the most T20I innings before scoring a fifty. He scored his maiden T20I fifty after playing 56 innings.
- He is the first player to score 1000 runs in T20Is without even scoring a career half-century.
- Holds the record for playing the most number of matches in T20I history as captain who has also served as a wicketkeeper (72).
- Most matches as captain in T20I history(72)
- He holds the record for the most dismissals as wicketkeeper in T20Is (76).
- Dhoni hold the record form most catches as wicketkeeper in T20 Internationals (47).
- He holds the joint record for taking the most catches as wicketkeeper in a T20I innings (4)