Mahendra Singh Dhoni carved a niche as one of his kind in Indian cricket ever since his arrival 15 years back. Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: The lack of any cricketing action all over the world due to the coronavirus pandemic has spurred the fans, much like other sport, look for their favourite dose of nostalgia. April 5, 2005 is one such day when a long-haired, unconventional cricketer called Mahendra Singh Dhoni changed the perception of how a wicketkeeper-batsman can contribute for the Indian cricket team.

It was the fifth One-day International against Pakistan in Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh and Dhoni - who made his international debut in that series - did not quite set the stage on fire till then in the first four ODIs. However, ‘Dada’, the Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly who backed his new players to the hilt, persisted with him and the Jharkhand man vindicated the faith in him - hammering 148 off 123 deliveries with 15 boundaries and four sixes.

Inzamam-ul Haq, the then Pakistan skipper, did not quite have an answer to stop his care-free approach and liking for the aerial route. Dhoni joined forces with Virender Sehwag and Rahul Dravid to stitch partnerships of 96 and 149, respectively.

”That innings got the team to believe that we too could have a prolific wicketkeeper-batsman,” recalled Ashis Nehra, the retired Indian pace bowler, in an interview. India got their version of an Adam Gilchirst as Dhoni went on amass 10 cneturies in the format and 10,773 runs at an average of 50.57 with 73 half-centuries. His 183 not out against Sri Lanka is still the highest score by a wicketkeeper in the 50-overs format.

Dhoni went on to lead India to two World Cups (2007 T20 World Cup, 2011 50-over World Cup) and ICC Champions Trophy in 2013 and is regarded as one of the most decorated captains the game. Nehra feels that the factor that helped Dhoni stand out among his contemporary wicketkeepers in the early part of his career was the fact that he made the most of the opportunities he got.

“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.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 may have lost all the remaining four matches in that series but we discovered Dhoni.”