Dhoni recently announced his retirement from international cricket, finishing his career as a legend of the game but Ganguly, his first India captain, believes the wicketkeeper-batsman would have achieved greater heights with the bat had he got more chances up the order.
In the 350 ODIs that he played for India, Dhoni batted in the top three just 18 times. In the 16 matches that he came in at No 3, his average was a stunning 82.75.
In an interview with SportsTak, Ganguly reflected on Dhoni’s initial run in international cricket. He may have famously gotten run-out for zero in his first One-Day International but in just his fifth 50-over game for India, Dhoni had proved his worth by smashing the Pakistan attack in an epic knock of 148 runs.
“He got the opportunity to bat at No 3 in Vizag, scored a superb hundred and whenever he has got a chance to play more overs, he has scored big,” said Ganguly.
Later in the year Dhoni delivered another splendid performance batting at No 3 – an unbeaten 183 off 145 deliveries in a chase of 299 against Sri Lanka. These two knocks at No 3 cemented his place in the Indian batting order but for most of his career, he played the role of a finisher lower down the order.
“A player is made when you send him up the order, you can’t make a player by playing him lower down the order. I always believe you can’t become a big cricketer by sitting inside the dressing room. The kind of abilities, especially the six-hitting prowess he had, was rare,” added Ganguly.
“He changed his game towards the end of his career but when the raw MS Dhoni arrived, it was very important to set him free. When I had retired, I aired my views many times, that Dhoni should bat higher up the order.”
Ganguly also revealed when he decided that Dhoni should be batting higher up. “There was the Challenger Trophy [in Mumbai in February 2005], Dhoni scored a hundred [unbeaten 96-ball 102] for my team while opening the batting, so I knew of his potential,” said Ganguly.