Friday offered the first opportunity for Mahendra Singh Dhoni to test his resources, resolve and repel an opposition keen to sustain its splendid and successful undertaking in home conditions. Beaten hollow in all formats of the game, his team that had earned some plaudits for its work in the NatWest one-day series may have taken the field with anxiety, but he played his part to perfection and showed the way for his team to notch an emphatic win.
His undefeated 87 on the back of his unbeaten 78 at Lord’s and an unbeaten 50 at Cardiff meant that the England bowlers had not been able to outwit the Indian captain for the third time. It was also his second consecutive man of the match winning effort on Indian soil; the previous one having come in the ICC World Cup final against Sri Lanka at the Wankhede Stadium on April 2. He had scored a rousing unbeaten 91 hitting winning shot over long on.
It’s another superb performance with the bat that set him apart from the likes of Suresh Raina, Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli, fast bowler Umesh Yadav and the slow spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. Taking guard at the fall of Kohli as the fourth Indian wicket, Dhoni once again gave serious import to the No. 6 position in the order and restored the innings to a highly competitive score that England failed to muster under the lights.
Without doubt it was yet another successful outing for Dhoni, under pressure to cause a quick turnaround after the rout in England. A batsman who is indifferent to the science of batting, relishes rural hoicks, attempts the extremities of the helicopter-shot and surprises opponents and spectators with strokes of rich brilliance, has been India’s leading batsman in one-day internationals in the last six years. Numbers eloquently speak of his resounding success and ability to extract heavy penalty of even good balls. Dhoni has had an amazing run after being blotted by a zero on debut against Bangladesh at Chittagong, two days before the Christmas of 2004. A robust 148 that pulverized Pakistan’s sharp pace and spin attack at Vishakapatnam April 5, 2005 set him into forward motion in Indian cricket.
After his match-winning 87 on Friday, his record stands at 6372 runs in 172 innings with seven centuries, 42 half centuries, an average of 50.17 and a strike rate slightly lower than 90. Dissecting the figures - 5017 runs scored under daylight in 125 innings - one would place him as a formidable and dangerous opponent. He has scored 4094 runs in 93 innings for a winning cause at a very impressive average of 75.81 which is marginally higher than 73.83 for his 1772 runs for the winning cause in 39 home innings. He has scored 2322 for a winning team in 54 innings in away matches for a remarkable average of 77.40.
Dhoni’s response to situations has been unerring and extraordinary scoring freely in all positions from No. 3 to 7. He has opened the innings twice and scored 98 (49.00), batted one-down 16 times and scored 993 (82.75), two down 16 times and scored 833 (69.42), batted three down 45 times and scored 1852 runs (54.47), batted four down 64 times and scored 1904 (39.67), five down 26 times and scored 641 (40.06) and six down three time and scored 51 (17.00). Clearly Dhoni has reigned supreme for the last seven years.
Left hander Yuvraj Singh comes close to Dhoni’s achievements from the time the present India captain made his debut. In this period Yuvraj has played 157 innings and scored 5547 runs at 42. 67 with a strike rate of 88.43. Sachin Tendulkar has played 111 innings, scored 4680 at 45.88, Virender Sehwag has played 129 innings, scored 4699 runs at 37.29, Rahul Dravid has played 96 innings and scored 3251 runs at 39.17 and Suresh Raina has played 107 innings and scored 3054 runs at 35.51. Gautam Gambhir has played 106 innings and scored 3993 runs at 41.58. In fact the left hander - either being dropped or because of injury - has not figured in 135 one-day internationals after he made his debut in April 2003.