Sunday marked the 15th anniversary of MS Dhoni‘s maiden ODI century, which announced his arrival at the international scene. Dhoni’s explosive knock of 148 ushered India into a new era, where its batsmen would no longer play supportive innings, but grab the opposition by the scruff of their neck and plunder the bowling. If Adam Gilchrist changed the perception of how wicketkeepers batted, Dhoni took it even further, becoming the most prolific wicketkeeper batsman in history scoring over 10000 ODI runs. Also Read - Ben Stokes Questions India's Intent During World Cup 2019 Game vs England at Edgbaston, Says There Was No Intent From MS Dhoni And Kedar Jadhav
Along the same lines, Ashish Nehra, who played with Dhoni in that match at Visakhapatnam in 2005, fondly recalled the memories, explaining how Dhoni’s knock against Pakistan instilled a belief within the team that India could hope to have their own proper wicketkeeper batsman. Also Read - IPL Postponement Makes MS Dhoni's Comeback Difficult But You Never Know: Ajay Ratra
“That innings got the team to believe that we too could have a prolific wicket-keeper batsman,” Nehra told the Times of India. “Dhoni didn’t have a great time in his initial matches. But when a confident man like him gets an opportunity and cashes in, then it’s hard to pull him back. Also Read - I am a Huge Fan of MS Dhoni, Want to Control Games Like Him: Mahmudullah
“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.”
As Nehra said, Dhoni entered the match on the back of scores of 0, 12, 7* and 3, batting down the order in all those matches. Sourav Ganguly, the then-captain of India, who was battling poor form decided to make way for Dhoni at No. 3 – the former India captain had scored over 1000 runs from 30 innings at one down, prior to the Vizag ODI. Ganguly’s gamble gave birth to a star as Dhoni routed Pakistan with a maiden ODI hundred.
That was a time when India were struggling to find a wicketkeeper who would hang around for long. After Nayan Mongia, plenty of names were tried – Ajay Ratra, Sameer Dighe, Vijay Dahiya, Deep Dasgupta, Dinesh Karthik, Parthiv Patel – but none seemed capable of making the wicketkeeper’s position his own. That is, of course, until Dhoni came along.
“Dhoni wasn’t the best wicketkeeper around when he first came in. All those who played before him were really good. He was certainly not a Kiran More or a Nayan Mongia. So it’s not that he was miles ahead of his contemporaries as a wicketkeeper, but he made for a better package. His discipline, passion, composure and confidence made him different,” Nehra went on to say.
“Dhoni did what DK and Parthiv couldn’t — make the most of his opportunities. Dhoni may not have been the best-looking batsman or a sound wicketkeeper but he certainly was the best wicketkeeper-batsman. He worked hard on his game, knew what work for him and grew as an impeccable wicketkeeper.”