How Greg Chappell's Challenge Helped MS Dhoni Turn Into A Great Finisher
Greg Chappell recalls how he had to ask MS Dhoni to curtail hitting in the air as the coach tried to make him one of the best finishers in cricket.
Greg Chappell said MS Dhoni is the most powerful batsman he has seen
He recalled how he had asked Dhoni to once play only along the ground
He said he wanted Dhoni to enjoy the thrill of finishing the match
Mahendra Singh Dhoni burst into international cricket in 2004 as a flamboyant, hard-hitting batsman, a far cry from the image of the calm and composed finisher he has built over a decade and a half later. Former India coach Greg Chappell recalled how the wicketkeeper-batsman was "the most powerful batsman" he had seen and spoke about how he had once set a challenge for the former India captain that laid the foundations for his development as a finisher with the bat.
Chappell, while speaking on an online chat with the PlayWrite Foundation, recalled Dhoni's devastating 183 off 145 deliveries against Sri Lanka in 2005 - which remains his highest ever score in One-day Internationals - and then spoke about a conversation he had with him then.
"I remember having a conversation with him. We had a home series against Sri Lanka," Chappell said. "Dhoni got a 180 in one game. He absolutely took them apart. He hit a lot of boundaries and he hit a lot of sixes.
"The next game was in Pune, and I remember having a conversation with him about his overall ability and I felt that if he just went through his career trying to hit boundaries and sixes, he may not achieve what he should achieve in cricket," Chappell said.
"Now we talked about the fact that if he could learn to hit the ball along the ground as well...even though he was good at hitting boundaries, it was still a high-risk way of playing. If he could take some of that risk out of it, he could become one of the best finishers in world cricket," he added.
"I remember that game in Pune, we didn't have many to chase and when he came in, we had 80 or 100 runs to get," the former India coach said.
"So, I threw him a challenge to see if he could get all of his runs along the ground. I said 'We should win, but I want you to go out there and make sure we win it'," Chappell said.
"You're not allowed to hit the ball in the air until we've won the game," he said. "Somehow, you've got to find the thrill in being the best finisher rather than one of the best hitters of boundaries and maybe be remembered for some exciting innings, because you could become the best finisher the game has ever seen.
"Luckily, he took the challenge, although I remember RP Singh was the 12th man, and mid-way through his innings, he came to me and said MS wants to know if he can hit the ball in the air now," Chappell recalled.
"We still needed about 20 runs to win, so I said to RP 'you go back and tell him, he can hit the ball in the air when we have won the game'."
Needless to say, Dhoni kept his patience, but in his trademark style, finished the game off with a six.
"We got towards the end of the game and we needed four to win, and he hit the biggest six straight down the ground and he ran off waving his bat in the air and he ran past me and asked 'is that alright coach?'"