M.S. Dhoni―the 10,000-run club’s ugly duckling

Dhoni's achievement had been overshadowed by India's loss against England

MS Dhoni―the 10,000-run club’s ugly duckling [File] M.S. Dhoni has one of the highest strike rates in one-day cricket | AFP

Virat Kohli displayed his brilliance in the first three games of the five-match ODI series against West Indies by becoming the first Indian to score three consecutive hundreds in the 50-over format. In the second ODI in Visakhapatnam, he toyed with the bowling on his way to an unbeaten 157, and in the process, became the fastest batsman to reach 10,000 runs, bettering Sachin Tendulkar's record in 54 fewer innings. Just another day in the office for King Kohli―scoring centuries and breaking records.

While everyone is talking about Kohli’s freakish ability, the ease with which he scores hundreds and comparing his stats to Sachin’s, there is another player in the 10,000-run club that deserves some appreciation: Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

Captain Cool reached the 10,000-run mark during the recent tour of England. Unfortunately for him, this milestone was overshadowed by Team India’s poor performance in the second game of the three-match ODI series that saw them go down by 86 runs. Dhoni struggled with the bat, scoring an uncharacteristically slow 37 of 59 balls, and received a lot of flak for his poor strike rate and fading ability to finish games. While the critics do have a point, a closer look at the numbers reveal why Dhoni’s feat is special.

The 13 batsmen in the 10,000-run club are cricketing royalty, all legends in their own right. But what sets Dhoni apart is that he is the only lower middle order batsmen in the group. All the others were either openers or batted at number 3 or 4. While some may argue that Inzamam-ul-Haq batted in the lower middle order as well, statistics show that 62 per cent of his knocks were as a top order batsmen. In comparison, Dhoni batted up the order only in 47 of his 280 innings (roughly 17 per cent).

Elite group

Batting up the order meant that these batsmen had the advantage of spending more time in the middle, giving them the opportunity to play a big innings. Dhoni, on the other hand, batted predominantly at number 5 or 6, and would usually come into to bat after 30-35 overs, sometimes even later. This disparity is clearly highlighted by the fact that Dhoni has far fewer centuries than most of the others in the group. Even in terms of 50s, MSD trails the pack.

But when it comes to averages, Dhoni had the the highest (and was the only one over 50) until Kohli’s entry to the elite group. While batting later in an innings increases the chances of remaining not out and boosting ones average, Dhoni has remained unbeaten a record 78 times, a clear indication of his legendary finishing skills. He also has one of the highest strike rates, a testament to his ability of finding the boundary at will.

MS Dhoni―the 10,000-run club’s ugly duckling MS Dhoni’s numbers at different batting positions

Just like batting at the death, batting up the order has its own set of challenges, but Dhoni has excelled there too. Dhoni has actually opened the innings twice, even scoring a 96. However, it was at the number 3 spot that Dhoni established himself in Indian cricket. He amassed 993 runs in 16 innings, averaging 82.75. He scored his career-best 183 in this position and also remained not out on four occasions. His record at the number 4 spot is not too shabby either, scoring 1,271 runs in 29 innings at an average of 52.96. Despite doing so well up the order, Dhoni chose to bat lower as he realised that the team needed someone to finish games. He was outstanding there as well, going on to become the greatest finisher in the history of the modern game.

Dhoni and Kohli are the only active players in the 10,000-run club, and while Kohli seems set to surpass Sachin Tendulkar’s all-time record, Dhoni, who will almost certainly retire after the 2019 World Cup, will finish ninth or 10th on the list. Could he have scored more runs batting up the order? May be, may be not. But what is important is that we acknowledge the greatness of the man, who adapted to whichever spot he was given, always put the team ahead of himself and quietly went about his work, consistently scoring runs and becoming one of the highest run-getters in the history of one-day cricket.