183 not out against Sri Lanka in 2005 —
But before these much-talked-about iconic moments happened, Dhoni entered the team as wicket-keeper batsman with a reputation of being a smasher of the ball. One innings in 2005 had defined that reputation and Dhoni proved that he was in for a long run in international cricket. He played an absolute blinder against Sri Lanka in the third ODI at Jaipur – an unbeaten knock of 183 in mere 145 balls. Promoted to No 3, Dhoni took the bowling attack featuring the likes of Chaminda Vaas and Muttiah Muralitharan and helped India chase 299 in mere 46.1 overs.
To see that flamboyant nature of that innings, witnessing those 15 fours and 10 sixes, it was impossible not to fall in love with the player.
2007 World T20 final — Jigar Mehta
This was the moment that defined MS Dhoni the captain. A high-pressure match, a final of a high-profile tournament against arch-rivals. The game was set up on a knife’s edge. It was Dhoni’s litmus test as a captain on the big stage. There were 13 required off the final over. He had his senior pro, Harbhajan Singh, at his disposal. A set Misbah is on strike. But Dhoni turned to the inexperienced medium-pacer Joginder Sharma who had played just eight international games and handed him the ball. It turned out to be a masterstroke. The first one was way outside off for a wide, the next one Misbah missed, and the third one went out of the park for a six. With 6 needed off four, Joginder provided a moment of anxiety and joy in equal measure as Misbah went for a scoop but mishit it to short fine leg where Sreesanth pouched it safely.
“Dhoni did not hesitate before giving me the ball,” Sharma later revealed in a column in Hindustan Times. “Pakistan needed 13 runs from the last over, and he told me, ‘don’t think about the runs that they need, think about your bowling. If you get hit, don’t over-think, just concentrate on the next ball. Whatever is the result, be confident you have my support’.”
A fearless captain leading a young team brought smiles to the nation recuperating from the group stage exit at 2007 World Cup. That moment and that tournament signalled the announcement of MS Dhoni the captain.
ICC World Cup 2011 final — PN Vishnu
ICC Champions Trophy 2013 — Amit Banerjee
MS Dhoni’s legacy as a captain lies in the respect that he commanded from his teammates, his calm demeanour on the field even when under the pump or his incredible match awareness that helped him make crucial, game-changing decisions.
One such decision made by MSD that has since had a long-term impact on the Indian team was his call to promote Rohit Sharma to the top of the order alongside Shikhar Dhawan during India’s victorious 2013 Champions Trophy campaign.
Both Dhawan and Rohit had opened the innings for India occasionally in the past, but didn’t quite get the extended run at the top order as they would’ve liked with the likes of Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag still around.
The left-right hand pair finally commenced their long-running partnership as openers with back-to-back century stands against South Africa and West Indies, followed by partnerships worth 58 and 77 against Pakistan and Sri Lanka (semi-final) respectively.
The only time they blipped in that event was in the low-scoring thriller of a final, although few cared about that at the end of the match when India finally got their hands on the trophy after 11 years.
Even though KL Rahul has been breathing down their necks of late, the Rohit-Dhawan partnership remains one of India’s first-choice options when it comes to white-ball cricket.
And that will forever be one of Dhoni’s most valuable contributions to Indian cricket.
ICC 2016 T20 World Cup — Shubham Pandey
One of Dhoni’s finest moments as a captain and a wicketkeeper came in Bengaluru in 2016 in the T20 World Cup, when Bangladesh, needing 11 runs in the last over to beat India in the Super 10 contest and with two good batsmen — Mahmudullah and Mushfiqur Rahim — in the middle, had Indian fans sweating.
Dhoni handed the ball to an inexperienced Hardik Pandya, and asked him to stick to back of the length deliveries as that was the bowler’s strongest point. Pandya stuck to the plan and luckily for India, Bangladesh had a bit of a brain fade.
After scoring two consecutive boundaries off the second and third ball of the over, Rahim miscued a pull shot and was caught deep in the mid-wicket region. On the next ball, Mahmudullah went for another glory shot and lost his wicket as well.
Suddenly, Bangladesh now needed 2 off the last ball and there were two tail-enders at the crease. Dhoni, behind the stumps, took his right glove off. He knew that they were going to run at any cost even if the batsman was beaten. And this is exactly what happened on the last ball of the over. Pandya bowled a back of the length, Shuvagata Hom missed it completely, Mustafizur Rahman ran from the non-strikers’ end.
They wanted a single to tie the game. But Dhoni, even with pads on, turned out to be quicker than him and the idea of taking the gloves off had worked. It meant that he did not have to waste time to take it off now. He collected the ball and ran up to the stumps, dislodged the bails, microseconds before Rahman could touch the crease. The umpires went upstairs to check, but Dhoni smiling at his teammates after having effected the run-out, had already declared the outcome – it was out.