Mahendra Singh Dhoni was a disruptor in more ways than one. His batting technique was unique, the power he got behind his shots was unmatched in Indian cricket and nobody did their hair quite like the youngster from Ranchi.
On April 5, 2005, in Visakhapatnam, as India played Pakistan in the second one-day international, the pressure on Dhoni, after a series of failures with the bat, was immense. An unorthodox batting style did little to help his cause but Dhoni silenced many doubters with a swashbuckling 148 off 123 deliveries to give India a victory in the game, a 2-0 lead in the series and most importantly a wicket-keeper batsman that the team had craved for many years.
Dhoni had made just 22 runs in his previous four matches, but an inspired decision by captain Sourav Ganguly to promote his young wicket-keeper batsman to No 3 position in the batting order did the trick.
The Ranchi youngster attacked the Pakistan bowlers from the word ‘go’, smashing 15 fours and four sixes to completely take the game away from the visitors. The surprise attack from a relatively unknown youngster had Pakistan scratching their heads. They never really recovered from Dhoni’s blows and conceded 356 to India in the first innings, and eventually fell short by 58 runs.
15 years on, the significance of that game in Indian cricket is huge with Dhoni not just going on to have a stellar career as a player but also as a captain. Under his leadership, India won the 2011 ODI World Cup, 2007 World T20 and 2013 ICC Champions Trophy.
“Dhoni’s innings is of great significance for Indian cricket. That innings got the team to believe that we too could have a prolific wicketkeeper-batsman,” Ashish Nehra told The Times of India recalling the game.
“Unwavering self-confidence is Dhoni’s strength. That innings was like he had tasted blood and he yearned for more. He hardly ever batted at No. 3 after that innings but he had made a statement that day. We lost all the remaining four matches in that series but we discovered Dhoni,” he added.