Throughout the course of his illustrious career, Mahendra Singh Dhoni established himself as one of the greats of Indian cricket, and indeed cricket the world over. He is rightfully lauded for his captaincy and leadership, but it was in the mastery of the run chase in the shorter forms of the game where he excelled perhaps more than any other player in the game’s history. And while it was in the ODI game where the bulk of his dominant performances came, it’s under-recognised how often he played an equally pivotal role in the 20-over game. These are five of the best T20 run chases of his career.
64* (32) – Rising Pune Supergiants def. Kings XI Punjab, IPL 2016
Having won the toss and elected to bat first, Kings XI Punjab were probably feeling pretty good about themselves as this match wound to a close. They’d put together a solid albeit unspectacular total of 172/7, but their bowling innings started about as well as they could have hoped, and when Dhoni walked in with his side needing 95 runs from 52 balls, the Supergiants’ chances were very much on the rocks.
Things didn’t get much better in the next couple of overs. The established Usman Khawaja went out just three balls after Dhoni arrived, while nine balls later Irfan Pathan was caught behind, leaving the Supergiants reeling at 86/5 and needing over 13 runs per over for victory.
Dhoni, alongside Thisara Perera, managed to keep them in with a chance, but with three overs to go they still needed an unlikely 44 for victory, and that number was only down to 23 with six balls remaining. With Dhoni at the crease, however, it turns out it wasn’t so unlikely at all. He refused a single off the first ball and watched a wide fly by the next, leaving 22 from five needed. He promptly hit a six over long on. The next ball, he again missed out – 16 from three required. Two sixes and a four. He got the four out of the way first – for theatre’s sake – and went on to smack the remaining two balls over the midwicket fence to record a famous victory.
70* (34) – Chennai Super Kings def. Royal Challengers Bangalore, IPL 2018
Nearing his 37th birthday, examples of Dhoni’s brilliance were becoming fewer and farther between. On this April evening, however, he wound back the clock in resounding fashion.
The star-studded Royal Challengers Bangalore, boasting an intimidating batting line-up which included AB de Villiers, Virat Kohli, Quinton de Kock and Colin de Grandhomme, stamped their authority on the game by putting 205 on the board in the first innings, helped along by a 68 off 30 balls by de Villiers. At 74/4 after nine overs, a win seemed close to out of the question for the Super Kings. Ambati Rayudu was batting well, however, and Dhoni had just joined him at the crease, but 12 runs per over for 11 overs with only a couple of recognised batsmen left?
It turned out to be no great problem for Dhoni. He and Rayudu went berserk, getting the equation down to 31 off 13 when the latter was run out for 82. The Super Kings took 14 off the penultimate over, including a six from MS and four successive wides from Mohammed Siraj which demonstrated just how stressful bowling to the master must be, before he and Dwayne Bravo cracked a couple of sixes and a four off the final over to get there with two balls to spare.
46 (28) – India def. Sri Lanka, T20I 2009
If ever an innings summed up MS Dhoni’s mastery, it was this one. He wasn’t the Man of the Match – incredibly, he never earned that accolade in his distinguished T20I career. He wasn’t the top run scorer, nor was he even at the crease when the winning runs were hit. It was Yuvraj Singh who ticked all those boxes, but as he so often was, MS Dhoni was the steady hand there to walk him through it.
Dhoni came in at the end of the sixth over with his Indian side sitting at 58/1, chasing a huge total of 207. He and Virender Sehwag knocked around ten an over for the next five overs before Virender was dismissed, and when Yuvraj arrived he took things up a notch – or more accurately, Yuvraj did. The two put on 80 in six overs, with Yuvraj doing the bulk of the scoring and MS Dhoni controlling the innings like few else can. He hit boundaries when needed, and got Yuvraj on strike when the situation called for it (which was often). Dhoni ended up being dismissed for 46 off 28, hardly a mammoth innings, but as he so often did, he had perfectly played the pivotal role of the anchor as India went on to record a famous victory.
24* (21) – India def. Australia, T20I 2013
Once again Dhoni wasn’t the star of the show in this win, and once again Yuvraj Singh was. Chasing 202 for victory, Dhoni joined Yuvraj at the crease with India reeling at 100/4, needing 103 to win off just 53 deliveries. The two went on to do it with two balls to spare, both of them remaining not out at the innings’ completion.
Of the 102 runs in the partnership, Dhoni scored just 24. Yuvraj, meanwhile, was unstoppable, smashing five sixes and eight fours en route to an unbeaten 77 off 35. He was undoubtedly the deserving Man of the Match, but in typically selfless fashion Dhoni was putting him on strike at every opportunity, recognising that it was Yuvraj who would have the best chance of leading them to victory. Dhoni meandered his way to 18 off 18 entering the final over, but showed a typically cool head under pressure when India needed six off four to win, promptly smacking a four through cover before working a two to get his team the chocolates.
54* (29) – Chennai Super Kings def. Kings XI Punjab, IPL 2010
Anyone who doubts Dhoni’s T20 ability based on the fact that he has regularly played a secondary role for the international side need only look at his IPL performances for a reminder that, if needed, he is capable of much more. This was yet another example. Kings XI Punjab set a hefty total of 193 to win, and Dhoni entered the field of play with his side at 89/3, needing 104 off 62 balls. He smacked boundaries when necessary, worked singles elsewhere, and managed to get the target down to 16 runs from the final over.
At 36 off 25 he needed to up the ante significantly, but as he so often did he had timed the chase to perfection, and knew he was capable of finishing things off in the final over. He sent a yorker hurtling back down the pitch for four off the first ball, then skied a two to make it 10 off the last four. He didn’t need four balls though. He hit the third ball of the over for a seemingly impossibly big six, and did the same the next ball to record a famous victory for his team.
Dhoni’s T20I stats are nothing to write home about, but far from being indicative of a lack of ability, they demonstrate his willingness to step back, control the innings and let his more powerful teammates do their thing. His numerous dominant IPL performances show what he is capable of when needed, and the distinction between how he played at international and domestic level show just how much control he was able to exact over a T20 run chase.