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Happy birthday MS Dhoni: A statistical look at the legend's illustrious career

On the occasion of MS Dhoni's 39th birthday, we have made a humble attempt at compiling numbers from his illustrious career, while trying to highlight the defining moments in his career.

Aratrick Mondal Aratrick Mondal
New Delhi Published on: July 07, 2020 9:09 IST
Happy Birthday, MS Dhoni: A statistical look at the
Image Source : GETTY

Happy Birthday, MS Dhoni: A statistical look at the legend's illustrious career

It is quite a misfortune to add up just numbers to pay tribute to an icon of MS Dhoni's stature. The man has entertained and ruled the hearts of cricket fans across the globe for almost 16 years, providing some of the most glorious and breathtaking moments. Numbers don't define a legend's career, albeit ironically, it has always been numbers that defined moments in their career. And for Dhoni, there is always much more to add to an article than just mere figures. Hence, on the occasion of the veteran Indian wicketkeeper-batsman and ex-captain's 39th birthday, we have made a humble attempt at compiling numbers from his illustrious career, while trying to highlight those defining moments in his career.

DHONI THE BATSMAN…

Dhoni made his international debut in each of the formats in the month of December, spread over three years. The first one happening in the ODIs, the format that has arguably defined his career in every aspect.

The veteran has made 350 ODI appearances since his debut at Chattogram against Bangladesh in 2004, the second-most among all Indians after Sachin Tendulkar (463) and second-highest among wicketkeeper-batsmen after Sri Lanka's Kumar Sangakkara (448).

In those 350 matches, Dhoni batted 297 times, scoring 10,773 runs at an average of 50.57. He stands fifth amongst highest Indian run-scorers in the 50-over format, is the 11th highest of all-time and second-highest among wicketkeeper-batsmen. Dhoni is also only the second batsman after Virat Kohli (59.33) to average more than 50 among batsmen who have reached the five-figure mark. And the sole reason for his high batting average is his number of not outs in ODIs - 84 - which is the most-ever by any batsman. Dhoni's career run-tally is laced with 10 half-centuries and 73 fifties.

Over the course of his career, Dhoni has batted at seven different batting positions, including as an opener (twice only, but back in the early days of his career). But the positions that defined him the most are No.5 and 6, scoring 3,169 runs in 83 innings and 4,164 runs in 129 innings, respectively. Dhoni, is in fact, the highest run-getter in ODIs at that position, and the second-highest run-getter (9,631 runs) as a middle-order batsman (No.4 to 7) after Sri Lanka's Mahela Jayawardene (9896 runs).

Breakdown of his ODI career…

Span Mat Inns Runs HS Ave 100 50
Debut-2006 59 53 1735 183* 43.37 2 10
2007-2011 137 122 4762 139* 54.73 5 33
2012-2016 87 71 2613 139* 50.25 2 18
2017-till date 67 51 1663 134 48.91 1 12

The first phase of his career (debut in 2004 to 2006) witnessed the rise of Dhoni and India telling the world the arrival of their aggressive wicketkeeper-batsman much like Australia's Adam Gilchrist and Sri Lanka's Sangakkara.

After a poor debut series in Bangladesh, Dhoni bounced back to score his maiden international ton en-route to a sensational 148 against Pakistan in Visakhapatnam. And a year later, he notched up his highest career score of an unbeaten 183 against Sri Lanka in Jaipur. He scored 1,735 runs in 53 innings during that period, the seventh-most among all batsmen.

It was only in the second phase of his career that Dhoni announced himself as a tormentor with the willow. With 4,762 runs in 122 innings between 2007 and 2011, Dhoni was the highest run-getter during the period, well ahead of other contemporary stars like Sangakkara (4,472 runs - 2nd) and AB de Villiers (3,863 runs - 7th). He also finished off with 1000-plus runs in three consecutive years during this period – 2007 to 2009 – and was, in fact, the joint highest run-getter in the format in 2009 alongside Australia’s Ricky Ponting.

MS Dhoni compared to other batsmen during 2007 and 2011...

Player Mat Inns Runs Ave 100 50
MS Dhoni (Asia/INDIA) 137 122 4762 54.73 5 33
KC Sangakkara (SL) 124 120 4472 40.28 6 32
RT Ponting (AUS) 109 105 4275 45 10 27
MJ Clarke (AUS) 115 108 3997 46.47 4 30
G Gambhir (INDIA) 108 104 3991 42.91 8 27
DPMD Jayawardene (Asia/SL) 127 121 3916 35.27 7 28
AB de Villiers (Afr/SA) 93 89 3836 51.83 11 23
TM Dilshan (SL) 115 108 3787 39.04 9 17
Yuvraj Singh (Asia/INDIA) 115 108 3765 41.37 6 24
SR Tendulkar (INDIA) 79 77 3574 50.33 8 21

It was during this time that Dhoni was handed over the captaincy reigns. He was named the Indian skipper for the inaugural World T20 in South Africa where he guided a young team, in the absence of some big names of Indian cricket, to title triumph, India's first big trophy since 1983 World Cup. Following the tournament, he became the ODI skipper and later guided India to the famous 2011 World Cup glory on home soil.

Post the World Cup victory and until 2016, Dhoni continued with his dominance as a batsman, although compared with other contemporaries of that period, who all batted higher in the batting lineup, the veteran did not have as many runs to back his case. With 2,613 runs in 71 innings at an impressive average of 50.25, Dhoni was well outside the top-10 bracket, but his average was the second-best among middle-order batters after De Villiers (3,869 runs at 65.57). It was also during this period that Dhoni guided India to their maiden ICC Champions Trophy triumph, in England in 2013.

The final three years of his ODI appearances, (July 9, 2019 being his last) witnessed a gradual downfall in his scoring rate with 2018 being his worst ever calendar year (275 runs in 13 innings at 25.00).

A year after his ODI debut, Dhoni made his first Test appearance, against Sri Lanka in Chennai and made his final in December of 2014, midway through the tour of Australia. In the course of his nine-year-long career, Dhoni scored 4,876 runs in 144 innings, with six centuries and 33 fifties. While his run tally places him at the 13th spot among India's all-time highest run-scorers in Tests, he is the third-highest overall among wicketkeeper-batsmen.

In T20Is, Dhoni has scored 1,617 runs in 95 matches at 37.60, making him the third-highest run-getter among Indians after Virat Kohli (2,794 runs) and Rohit Sharma (2,773 runs).

THE WICKETKEEPER…

The turn of the century witnessed the Indian team management struggling to find a designated wicketkeeper-batsman. The selectors tried multiple options in SS Dighe, Deep Dasgupta, Ajay Ratra, Nayan Mongia, Saba Karim, and MSK Prasad, before their wait ended on a 17-year-old who was coming off fresh from leading India's U-19 team. Parthiv Patel arrived straight from the U19 and handed a debut opportunity in England in August of 2002, despite the youngster lacking any first-class experience. It was a sigh of relief for the management, but the not for too long. India then shifted to Dinesh Karthik, a young cricketer from Tamil Nadu, but that too didn't last long although the selectors had little to stress about. 14 months after Parthiv's last Test appearance and few days after Karthik's, back then, India had found MS Dhoni. And such was his dominance or grasp over his spot that all failed to breach it until his Test retirement in 2014.

In his nine-year Test career, Dhoni inflicted 294 dismissals, combining 256 catches and 38 stumpings. While it is the best-ever by an Indian, with the next best being 198 dismissals (by Syed Kirmani), Dhoni stands fifth in the all-time list.

In ODIs, Dhoni has 444 dismissals to his name - 321 catches and 123 stumpings - the third-best figure in the world after Sangakkara (482) and Gilchrist (472). But what puts Dhoni atop is his tally of stumpings. No other wicketkeeper has inflicted 100 stumpings on ODIs.

And in T20Is, Dhoni stands tall with the most dismissals affected by a wicketkeeper - 91, comprising 57 catches and 34 stumpings, both of which are highest in their respective lists.

Despite Dhoni standing third in international cricket with his figures as a wicketkeeper, what sets him apart from the rest is his lightning-quick speed with the gloves when it comes to inflicting a stumping, using the DRS with great finesse following which his fans refer to it as "Dhoni Review System", and ability to read batsmen which has more often than not helped the bowlers.

THE FINISHER…

Among the few things that have become synonymous with Dhoni is the word 'Finisher'. Limited-overs cricket has witnessed quite a few good finishers like Australia's Michael Bevan or Mike Hussey or South Africa's Lance Klusener, but has there been a better finisher than Dhoni? No. Period.

The signs of Dhoni as a finisher was witnessed in the early days of his career. Remember his 72 off 46 in Lahore in 2006 when India required 99 off remaining 92 balls? And then in the same series, Dhoni, along with Yuvraj Singh, finished off the chase of remaining 146 off 118 balls within 99 deliveries. However, the most iconic finish still remains that history-scripting six in the 2011 World Cup final.

Over the course of his career, he became a more calculative finisher, took fewer risks, and backed himself for the big showdown with fewer balls remaining. According to ESPNCricinfo, Dhoni's scoring rate increases beyond 170 in final five overs of an ODI match while batting first, and to almost 140 while chasing. Of the 11 games in his career that Dhoni has batted till the final over, India won seven and lost three.

THE CAPTAIN…

Dhoni still remains India's most successful captain across format, leading India in 332 international matches (most), with the team winning 178 (most) hence recording in a win-loss ratio of 1.48 (second-most after Kohli's 2.49). Overall, his winning tally places him second after Ponting’s 220 wins in 324 international matches as an Australian captain. But Dhoni still stands out from the lot as arguably the greatest captain ever having guided India to World T20 title glory in 2007, World Cup 2011 triumph and a maiden Champions Trophy victory in 2007, making him the only captain to win all three ICC trophies.  

The 39-year-old was India's most successful Test captain until September 2019 when Kohli took over the top spot following India's whitewash over West Indies. He presently stands second with 27 wins in 60 Tests as captain, and remains the first Indian skipper to guide the nation to the top spot in ICC Test team rankings in 2009.

India's captains across formats...

Captain Span Mat Won Lost Tied Draw NR
MS Dhoni 2007-2018 332 178 120 6 15 13
V Kohli 2013-2020 181 117 47 3 10 4
M Azharuddin 1990-1999 221 104 90 2 19 6
SC Ganguly 1999-2005 195 97 78 0 15 5
R Dravid 2000-2007 104 50 39 0 11 4

Dhoni leads the chart in ODIs, leading India to 110 wins in 200 matches as a captain, the second-most in the world after Pointing's tally of 165 wins in 230 matches. In T20Is, Dhoni guided India to 41 wins in 72 matches, the best figure by any captain in the format.

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