Where would India be at the moment in limited-overs cricket had it not been for Mahendra Singh Dhoni? When MS Dhoni arrived on to the scene, the fans were not really aware about his abilities. After a few hiccups at the start, Dhoni went on a rampage against Pakistan in an ODI match in Vizag in 2005, and the rest is history. The world got to see Dhoni's abilities as a finisher in an ODI match against Zimbabwe in 2005, when he smashed an unbeaten 67 runs in 63 balls to help India chase down 255, after going five wickets down for 91. Dhoni, the finisher, was born, and such was his aura that even today, every bowling unit knows that the game is not over till Dhoni is in the middle.
As the former India captain turns 39 on Tuesday, here is a look at some of Dhoni's best ODI knocks:
1) 91* vs Sri Lanka at Mumbai, April 2011
Dhoni was destined for greatness and perhaps his best knock of all time arrived on April 2, 2011. His name was immortalised in the annals of cricketing history forever as he hit a six to take India to World Cup glory after 28 years. The journey wasn't easy though. A woefully out of form skipper promoted himself above the team's best performer in the tournament in the final. India were chasing 275 to win the final against Sri Lanka. They were pegged back as openers Virender Sehwag and Tendulkar were dismissed early. Gautam Gambhir (97) and Kohli (35) did the repair job to take India to 114/3.
Dhoni walked in ahead of Yuvraj to link up with the efficient Gambhir. Till Gambhir was in the middle, Dhoni played second fiddle. Once Gambhir was dismissed, Dhoni upped the ante and took India towards the finish line. India eventually won with 10 balls to spare as Dhoni remained unbeaten on 91 off just 79 deliveries in a display of steely resolve and nerves.
2) 183* vs Sri Lanka at Jaipur, December, 2005
By the time Sri Lanka came calling in December 2005, Dhoni had already cemented his place in the team. In the third ODI at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium, Kumar Sangakkara's century helped the Lankans post a daunting 298 on the board. The pitch was flat but Chaminda Vaas accounted for Sachin Tendulkar early. Dhoni was promoted to number 3 yet again and he did exactly what he had done against Pakistan few months earlier. Dhoni batted without any pressure, never even looking at the required rate. Wickets fell around him after a certain interval but Dhoni kept going. He hit 10 massive sixes and 15 boundaries to stay unbeaten on 183 as India won by six wickets with 23 balls to spare. It still remains the highest score by a wicket-keeper in ODIs.
3) 148 vs Pakistan at Visakhapatnam, April, 2005
Dhoni had walked into the Indian team with his reputation preceding him. Everyone knew he could hit the ball hard and far, but his first four innings produced scores of 0, 12, 7*, 3 batting down the order. Against Pakistan in the second ODI of the series, skipper Sourav Ganguly decided to promote the youngster to number three and Dhoni produced an innings filled with power and confidence, making a mockery of the bowling attack. His broad willow belted 15 boundaries and four massive sixes as he scored 148 in just 123 deliveries. His effort guided India to 356/9, a target too much for Pakistan to chase down eventually.
4) 113* vs Pakistan at Chennai, December, 2012
This was one innings which showed Dhoni's ability as a batsman at his best. Pakistan's Junaid Khan wreaked havoc as he reduced India to 29/5, picking up four of the top five wickets. Dhoni came in to bat and along with Suresh Raina, did the initial repair job. Once Suresh Raina was dismissed, Dhoni took control of the innings, punishing the bad deliveries and farming strike to keep Ravichandran Ashwin safe at the other end. He hit three sixes and seven fours in his unbeaten knock of 113 to guide India to 227. It wasn't enough to save the day as Pakistan won the match, but Dhoni had saved his team from embarrassment at the hands of the arch-enemy.
5) 55* vs Australia at Adelaide, January 2019
By 2019, even the staunchest of MS Dhoni supporters knew the former India captain was well past his prime. But Dhoni showcased that he still has the ability to control a game when he is in the middle. With critics circling all around him, questioning whether he still deserves to be in the team, or should India opt for younger players, Dhoni put the world on notce when he went on to help India chase down 299 against Australia in an ODI game in Adelaide in January last year.
India were down by a game in the series and were chasing 299 to keep it alive. Virat Kohli was doing what he does best but the target was still quite far. Dhoni walked into the middle at Ambati Rayudu's dismissal with the score at 160/3. India still needed 139 runs at close to 7 runs per over. While Kohli kept playing his shots, Dhoni kept rotating the strike and played the perfect second fiddle. Once Kohli was dismissed with 57 runs to win in just 38 deliveries, India were up against it. But Dhoni stepped up and changed gears almost immediately.
First came a six off Nathan Lyon. Both Dhoni and Dinesh Karthik placed the ball beautifully in the gaps and ran doubles and triples. India needed 7 to win off the last over and in trademark style, Dhoni levelled the scores with a massive hit. He scored the winning runs to set up a decider. Dhoni would go on to score an unbeaten 87 in the final match as India won a bilateral ODI series in Australia for the first time. It was vintage Dhoni.