M.S. Dhoni’s 183: Venugopal Rao reveals on-field moments

Former India and Andhra batsman Y. Venugopal Rao was at the non-striker’s end when Dhoni finished the match with a six in Jaipur in 2005.

M.S. Dhoni

M.S. Dhoni celebrates after guiding India to victory over Sri Lanka during the third ODI at the Sawai Man Singh Stadium in Jaipur.   -  S. Subramanium

Fifteen years ago, when chasing 300 still meant a lot of work, Y. Venugopal Rao had the best seat to watch a superstar in the making. He was at the non-striker’s end when a 24-year-old Mahendra Singh Dhoni finished off the Jaipur ODI, against Sri Lanka, with a six to register his highest score — 183 not out.

Batting at No. 3, Dhoni took 145 balls and 210 minutes to chase it down. He hit 15 fours and 10 sixes at a strike-rate of 126.20.

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“It was not at all easy but this was a chanceless knock. He was picking Chaminda Vaas over the cover region. When I went to bat [at No.6], I knew that I could finish the game. But Mahi told me he wanted to finish it off with a six. He hit two fours and said, ‘Mereko ek chance de de, main finish karta hoon six maarke’ (Give me a chance, I will finish the match with a six).

“After playing that big a knock, I knew he would finish it,” recalled Rao in a chat with Sportstar on Wednesday.

Dhoni was suffering from cramps towards the later part of the innings, when Virender Sehwag came as his runner.

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“I was playing Dilhara Fernando. He was bowling outside the off-stump and I was just leaving the balls. The crowd wanted me to finish. Sehwag being a senior player, he was constantly telling me to smash and finish it off and not wait till the end. But when I took strike, Dhoni told me, ‘Nahi tu ruk jaa, next over main khatam kar deta hoon.’ (No, you wait! I will finish it in the next over). As soon as the next over started, he hit a six and finished it off,” said Rao, who remained unbeaten on 19.

M.S. Dhoni and Venugopal Rao during a practice session on the eve of triangular series final between India and New Zealand at the Harare Sports Club in Harare, Zimbabwe.   -  V.V. Krishnan

 

Rao, an IPL winner with now-defunct Deccan Chargers, has seen Dhoni grow from a youngster to a leader. He believes it was his honesty that took him to greater heights.

“Dhoni is a straightforward man. If you want to ask him anything about the team’s improvement, he will tell you honestly. There are people who talk diplomatically to survive or to impress, but if you go to Mahi, he will tell you the exact thing that is in his mind. That’s what the beauty of this person is. He has always been very sharp. He is like Kohinoor.

“When you ask him to go up and bat, he will. When you ask him to go at No. 8, he will go and finish the game. You don’t get players like that often. As a captain also, he was very proactive," he said.

On India's 74th Independence Day, Dhoni stumped the world by announcing retirement from international cricket.

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