Is Dhoni the best finisher in One-day cricket?
After guiding India to a nail-biting victory over Sri Lanka in the tri-series final on Thursday, Mahendra Singh Dhoni has again staked claim to the title of 'best finisher in the history of ODI cricket'.
Former India captain and chairman of selectors Dilip Vengsarkar admitted that he hasn't seen a better finisher than the Jharkhand dasher.
"It was a great fightback from the young Indian brigade after losing initial games. Dhoni has a great temperament and, by far, he's the best finisher I have ever seen. He just doesn't get flustered at any stage of the game," Vengsarkar said.
He was reacting to India's triumph in the tournament after losing their first two round-robin matches against Sri Lanka and hosts West Indies early in the tournament and Dhoni's match-winning unbeaten knock which guided India to victory by one wicket from a precarious situation in the low-scoring tri-series final at the Queen's Park Oval.
The T20 format, which has gained tremendous popularity all over the world, has made players innovate more than ever. But Dhoni has displayed his killer instinct even before it gained currency.
Image: MS Dhoni
Photographs: Gareth Copley/Getty Images
Finisher's job in sublime fashion
Much before displaying his superb finishing skills in the T20 format, especially in the attention-grabbing Indian Premier League, 'Captain Cool' showed what he is capable of in the slog phase of a run-chase in 50-over games.
Back in 2005, Dhoni, who was a new entrant in the Indian team, smashed an unbeaten 183 off just 145 balls, batting at No. 3, his highest ODI score to date. It was studded with an incredible 10 sixes and 15 fours. The Lankans had then too borne the brunt of his bludgeoning blade.
Thanks to that fabulous innings, India chased down a stiff target of 299 with almost four overs to spare.
Featuring in the visiting Sri Lanka team's attack were two of their best-ever bowlers – Chaminda Vaas and Muttiah Muralitharan.
Just a few months earlier Dhoni (April 05, 2005 ) forced the cricket world to sit up and witness his amazing abilities when scoring a pulverising 148 off 123 balls against Pakistan at Vishakapatnam to set up a famous victory by guiding India to an amazing 356 for 9 wickets. Chasing, visitors folded for 298 in 44.1 overs as India won by 58 runs.
Dhoni has done the finisher's job in sublime fashion in Pakistan - at Lahore and Karachi - in 2006 with unbeaten 70-plus knocks that became key elements in India's 4-1 victory in the ODI series after the 0-1 loss in the preceding Test series.
He did it in Bangladesh also, in May 2007, and January 2010, with innings of 91 not out and 101 not out respectively.
Image: MS Dhoni
Photographs: Punit Paranjpe/Reuters
Calm in the face of severe adversity
In some of these knocks he had the support of the likes of Yuvraj Singh and Virat Kohli, while in others, like Thursday's tri-series final in the West Indies with last-man Ishant Sharma, it was in the company of tail-enders.
The most talked about and important among these back-to-the-wall knocks is the 91 not out he scored in the April 2, 2011 World Cup final against Sri Lanka at the Wankhede stadium in Mumbai.
Thanks to the brilliant 97 by opener Gautam Gambhir, his innings-building partnership of 119 with Dhoni and the captain's invaluable 54-run unfinished stand with Yuvraj Singh, India chased down the imposing and nerve-wracking target of 275 set by Lanka with ten balls to spare.
Dhoni finished off the game as only he could, clobbering speedster Nuwan Kulasekara for the winning six, to send the entire country into a celebratory mood for days.
Dhoni's calm in the face of severe adversity, ability to change gears as and when he likes and as the situation warrants and the manner in which he sizes up the opposing bowlers and captains have been major factors in his stupendous success.
Image: MS Dhoni
Photographs: Graham Crouch/Getty Images
'Dhoni has done it over and over for us'
In 226 ODIs, he has amassed over 7,300 runs, including eight centuries and 48 half centuries, but his clear-cut ability as a great finisher is revealed by the fact that he has remained unbeaten once in every four innings.
Teammate Rohit Sharma, who anchored the innings with a responsible and fighting 58 at the top of the order, put it aptly.
"Dhoni has done it over and over for us, so we were all positive in the dressing room. We've seen him doing it for many years now. This wasn't any surprise."
Image: MS Dhoni
Photographs: Tom Shaw/Getty Images