Mumbai: After guiding India to a nail-biting victory over Sri Lanka in the tri-series final yesterday, Mahendra Singh Dhoni has again staked claim to the title of the best-ever finisher in the history of ODI cricket.
Former captain and chairman of selectors Dilip Vengsarkar admits that he has not witnessed a better finisher than the Jharkhand dasher.
"It was a great fight-back from the young Indian brigade after losing initial games. Dhoni has a great temperament and, by far, he's the best finisher I have ever seen. He just doesn't get flustered at any stage of the game," Vengsarkar told PTI during an interaction on Friday.
He was referring to India's triumph in the tournament after losing their first two round robin matches against Lanka and hosts West Indies in the earlier part of the tournament and Dhoni's match-winning unbeaten knock which guided India home to victory by one wicket from a precarious situation in the low-scoring tri-series final at the Queen's Park Oval.
The T20 format, which has gained tremendous popularity all over the world has made players innovate much more than ever before. But Dhoni has shown his killer instinct much before it gained currency.
Even before displaying his superb finishing skills in the T20 format, especially in the attention-grabbing Indian Premier League, 'Captain Cool' had shown what he is capable of in the slog phase of a run-chase in the 50-over games.
Back in 2005, Dhoni, who was a new entrant in the Indian team had smashed an unbeaten 183 in just 145 balls batting at no. 3, his highest ODI score to date, with an incredible tally of 10 sixes and 15 fours and the Lankans had then too borne the brunt of his bludgeoning blade.
Thanks to that fabulous innings, India chased down the stiff target of 299 set up by Lanka with almost four overs to spare.
Featuring in the visiting team's attack were two of their best-ever bowlers - Chaminda Vaas and Muthiah Muralitharan.
Just a few months earlier had Dhoni forced the cricket world to sit up and witness his amazing abilities when scoring a pulverising 148 off 123 balls against Pakistan at Vishakapatnam to set up a famous victory by guiding India to an amazing 356 for 9 wickets chasing which the visitors came a cropper.
Dhoni has done the finisher's job in sublime fashion in Pakistan - at Lahore and Karachi - in 2006 with unbeaten 70-plus knocks that became key elements in India's 4-1 victory in the ODI series after the 0-1 loss in the preceding Test series.
He has done it in Bangladesh in May, 2007 and then in January, 2010 with innings of 91 not out and 101 not out respectively.
In some of these knocks he has had the support of the likes of Yuvraj Singh and Virat Kohli and in others, like he did yesterday in the company of last man Ishant Sharma, tail-enders.
The most talked about and important among these back-to-the-wall knocks is the 91 not out he made in the April 2, 2011 World Cup final against sub continent rivals Sri Lanka at the Wankhede Stadium final here.
Thanks to the brilliant 97 by opener Gautam Gambhir, his innings building partnership of 119 with Dhoni and the captain’s invaluable 54-run unfinished stand with Yuvraj Singh, India chased down the imposing and nerve-wracking target of 275 set up by Lanka with ten balls to spare.
Dhoni finished off the game as only he could, by clobbering speedster Nuwan Kulasekara for the winning six to send the entire country into a celebratory mood for days.
Dhoni's calmness in the face of severe adversity, ability to change gears as and when he likes and as the situation warrants and the manner in which he sizes up the opposing bowlers and captains have been major factors in his stupendous success.
In 226 ODIs, he has amassed over 7,300 runs with 8 centuries and 48 half centuries, but his clear-cut ability as a great finisher is revealed by the fact that he has remained unbeaten once in every four innings.
Teammate Rohit Sharma, who anchored the innings with a responsible and fighting 58 at the top of the order, put it aptly.
"Dhoni has done it over and over for us, so we were all positive in the dressing room. We've seen him doing it for >many years now. This wasn't any surprise."