In 2005, having featured in only four matches without doing anything significant, not many expected MS Dhoni to bat the way he did in the next game. But that very game in Vishakhapatnam proved to be the one in which MS Dhoni announced his arrival in international cricket. The former captain hammered an outstanding inning of 148 off 123 deliveries against Pakistan, a knock which left Mohammad Kaif awestruck.
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The Jharkhand cricketer had a tough start to his ODI career in 2004, having suffered a run-out on the very first ball. His next three innings produced scores of 12, 7, and 3 before the sparkling knock in Vishakhapatnam. That very inning in a winning effort solidified his position in the team and he changed the face of Indian cricket.
Mohammad Kaif, who was one of the players in the team when MS Dhoni debuted, was unaware of his superlative abilities, considering his first three innings. However, the wind changed when he got a chance at number three against Pakistan. Kaif recalled that the way the keeper-batsman that time, he hadn’t watched anyone bat as well or hit the ball as hard as Dhoni did.
“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 39-year old said as quoted by Hindustan Times.
Mohammad Kaif remembers playing against MS Dhoni in domestic cricket for the first time:
Kaif went on to narrate the very first time when in Deodhar Trophy, they were up against each other. When chasing 360 against Central Zone, the 38-year old hammered 80-85 runs in around 50 balls. That made Kaif realize that he has an X-factor in him and a different style of playing, suited to modern-day gameplay. The retired cricketer continued by saying that prior to that, he had heard about MS Dhoni only through a friend, who had a long hair and goggles.
“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. 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 added.