Former India cricketer Mohammad Kaif on Thursday recalled MS Dhoni’s blistering 148-run knock in 123 balls against Pakistan at Visakhapatnam in 2005. The wicketkeeper-batsman was a fairly new entry into the Indian team at the time, having played only four ODI matches before. He had a tough start to his career, as he was run out in his debut game on the first ball for a duck. But his innings against Pakistan cemented his position into the team, and gave Indian team a new rising star.
Speaking in an interview to Times of India, Kaif said: “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.”
He further added: “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 was one of the players in the team when Dhoni made his debut against Bangladesh in December 2004. When Dhoni got run-out, Kaif was on the other end. “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,” the former India batsman added.
India picked a 58-run win over their arch-rivals in the encounter, as Dhoni was declared as Player of the Match. Two years later, he was named as India’s captain in the inaugural T20I World Cup, and led his troops to a thrilling title-win. As captain, Dhoni also led India to a title win in 2011 ODI World Cup, and 2013 Champions Trophy.