Former Indian cricketer Mohammad Kaif on Thursday called to mind MS Dhoni’s impressive innings against arch-foes Pakistan at Visakhapatmnam in 2005, where the latter knocked 148 runs of just 123 balls. The World Cup winning skipper was a fairly new into the Indian side at the time, having played only four ODI games before.
Dhoni had a rough start to his career, as he was run-out in his debut match on the first delivery without scoring a run. However, his innings against Pakistan consolidated his spot into team India, and gave India a new rising star.
Talking in an interview to TOI, Kaif stated, “I first saw Dhoni playing when I was the captain of the Central Zone in the Deodhar Trophy and he was playing for the East Zone, about two years before his international debut. We had made about 360 and he came at the number 3 spot to bat. We thought of attacking him, but he made 80-85 runs in the match off just 40-50 balls. So I had realized that time he (Dhoni) has that X-factor and a unique playing style and a great understanding of the game.”
“But before that, I had first heard about Dhoni from a friend who had seen him playing on TV, playing for India A, doing wicket-keeping with goggles on, has long hair and has that X-factor. Then soon, I got the chance of playing with him,” Kaif added.
Kaif was there in the team when MS Dhoni made his debut against Bangladesh in 2004. When Dhoni got run-out, Kaif was on the other end of the crease. “When he (Dhoni) got run out against Bangladesh, no one knew about his match-finishing and match-winning capabilities. His first two-three innings weren’t so good, but then he got that chance in Vizag against Pakistan,” he said.
“I watched that innings very closely and I realized that this man is one for the long haul. It was hard to believe that someone could play that sort of an innings so early in his career. Hitting the ball is one thing and tearing the ball apart by brute force is another. He was just butchering the Pakistani attack apart. I hadn’t seen anyone batting like that till that time. So it was a good move to promote him to the number 3 spot,” Kaif said.
India won the arch-rivals by 58 runs in the match, as MS Dhoni was declared the man of the match. Two years from there, Dhoni was named India’s captain in the first ever T20I World Cup, and led the men in blue to glory. As skipper, MSD also led team India to a ODI World Cup win in 2011 and Champions Trophy 2013.