Junior Cricket in Bihar
In 1998, Dhoni was selected by Deval Sahay to play for the Central Coal Fields Limited (CCL) team. Till
1998 Dhoni, who was in class 12th in school, had played only school cricket and club cricket and no
professional cricket. One of
the famous episodes, when Dhoni used to play for CCL, was when Deval Sahay used to gift him Rs 50 for each
six that he hit in Sheesh Mahal tournament cricket matches. Playing for CCL, he got a chance to bat up the
order. He grabbed
the opportunity and scored centuries and helped CCL move to the A division. Deval Sahay impressed by his
hard-hitting shots and dedication, used his contacts in Bihar Cricket Association to push for his
selection in the Bihar team.
Deval Sahay, an ex Bihar Cricket Association Vice-President, was the Ranchi District Cricket President at
that time and was instrumental in pushing Dhoni to the big stage of Ranchi team, junior Bihar cricket team
senior Bihar Ranji Team for the 1999–2000 season. Within 1 year, Dhoni moved from playing in CCL to the
Bihar Ranji team. Dhoni has credited Deval Sahay for instilling discipline in him. Dhoni was included
in the Bihar U-19
squad for the 1998–99 season and scored 176 runs in 5 matches (7 innings) as the team finished fourth in
the group of six and did not make it to the quarter-finals. Dhoni was not picked for the East Zone U-19
squad (CK Nayudu Trophy)
or Rest of India squad (MA Chidambaram Trophy and Vinoo Mankad Trophy). Bihar U-19 cricket team advanced
to the finals of 1999–2000 Cooch Behar Trophy, where Dhoni made 84 to help Bihar post a total of 357.
Bihar's efforts were
dwarfed by Punjab U-19s' 839 with Dhoni's future national squad teammate Yuvraj Singh making 358. Dhoni's
contribution in the tournament included 488 runs (9 matches, 12 innings), 5 fifties, 17 catches and 7
stumpings. Dhoni made
it to the East Zone U-19 squad for the CK Nayudu trophy but scored only 97 runs in four matches, as East
Zone lost all four matches and finished last in the tournament.
Bihar Cricket Team
Dhoni made his Ranji Trophy debut for Bihar in the 1999–2000 season, as an eighteen-year-old. He made a
half century in his debut match scoring 68* in the second innings against Assam cricket team.
Dhoni finished the season with 283 runs in 5 matches. Dhoni scored his maiden first-class century while
playing for Bihar against Bengal in the 2000/01 season, in a losing cause. Apart from this century, his
performance in the
2000/01 season did not include another score over fifty and in the 2001/02 season, he scored just five
fifties in four Ranji matches.
Jharkhand Cricket Team
Dhoni's performance in the 2002–03 season included three half-centuries in the Ranji Trophy and a couple
of half-centuries in the Deodhar Trophy, as he started gaining recognition for his lower-order
contribution as well as hard-hitting batting style. In the 2003/04 season, Dhoni scored a century (128*)
against Assam in the first match of the Ranji ODI tournament. Dhoni was part of the East Zone squad that
won the Deodhar Trophy
2003–2004 season and contributed with 244 runs in 4 matches, including a century (114) against Central
In the Duleep Trophy finals, Dhoni was picked over international cricketer Deep Dasgupta to represent East
Zone. He scored a fighting half-century in the second innings in a losing cause. Dhoni's talent was
via the BCCI's small-town talent-spotting initiative TRDW. Dhoni was discovered by TRDO Prakash Poddar,
captain of Bengal in the 1960s, when he saw Dhoni play for Jharkhand at a match in Jamshedpur in 2003, and
sent a report to
the National Cricket Academy.
India A Team
He was recognised for his efforts in the 2003/04 season, especially in the One Day format and was picked
for the India A squad for a tour of Zimbabwe and Kenya. Against the Zimbabwe XI in Harare Sports Club,
Dhoni had his best wicket-keeping effort with 7 catches and 4 stumpings in the match. In the tri-nation
tournament involving Kenya, India A and Pakistan A, Dhoni helped India A chase down their target of 223
against Pakistan A with
a half-century. Continuing his good performance, he scored back to back centuries – 120 and 119* – against
the same team. Dhoni scored 362 runs in 6 innings at an average of 72.40 and his performance in the series
from the then Indian captain – Sourav Ganguly and Ravi Shastri, amongst others.
Start of ODI career
The Indian ODI team in the early 2000s saw Rahul Dravid as the wicket-keeper to ensure that the
wicket-keeper spot didn't lack in batting talent. The team also saw the entry of wicket-keeper/batsmen
from the junior ranks, with talents
like Parthiv Patel and Dinesh Karthik (both India U-19 captains) named in the Test squads. With Dhoni
making a mark in the India A squad, he was picked in the ODI squad for the Bangladesh tour in 2004/05.
Dhoni did not have a great
start to his ODI career, getting run out for a duck on debut. In spite of an average series against
Bangladesh, Dhoni was picked for the Pakistan ODI series
In the second match of the series, Dhoni, in his fifth one-day international, scored 148 in Visakhapatnam
off only 123 deliveries. Dhoni's 148 surpassed the earlier record for the highest score by an Indian
wicket-keeper, a record
that he would re-write before the end of the year.
Dhoni had few batting opportunities in the first two games of the Sri Lankan bilateral ODI series
(October–November 2005) and was promoted to No. 3 in the third ODI at Sawai Mansingh Stadium (Jaipur). Sri
Lanka had set
India a target of 299 after a Kumar Sangakkara century and, in reply, India lost Tendulkar early. Dhoni
was promoted to accelerate the scoring and ended the game with an unbeaten 183 off 145 balls, winning the
game for India. The
innings was described in Wisden Almanack (2006) as 'Uninhibited, yet anything but crude'. The innings set
various records including the highest individual score in ODI cricket in the second innings, a record only
broken after seven
years by Shane Watson. Dhoni ended the series with the highest run aggregate (346) and was awarded the Man
of the Series award for his efforts. In December 2005, Dhoni was rewarded a B-grade contract by the BCCI.
India scored 328 in 50 overs with Dhoni contributing 68 in their first match of 2006 against Pakistan.
However, the team finished poorly scoring just 43 runs in the last eight overs and lost the match due to
method. In the third match of the series, Dhoni came in with India in a precarious situation and scored 72
runs off just 46 balls that included 13 boundaries to help India take a 2–1 lead in the series. The final
match of the
series had a repeat performance as Dhoni scored 77 runs off 56 balls to enable India win the series 4–1.
Due to his consistent ODI performances, Dhoni overtook Ricky Ponting as number one in the ICC ODI Rankings
for batsmen on
20 April 2006 becoming the fastest batsman to do so, in 42 innings. His reign lasted just a week as Adam
Gilchrist's performance against Bangladesh moved him to the top spot.
Two cancelled series in Sri Lanka, one due to the withdrawal of South Africa from the Unitech Cup due to
security concerns and the replacement three-match ODI bilateral series against Sri Lanka washed due to
was India's prelude to another disappointing tournament – DLF Cup 2006-07. Dhoni scored 43 runs as the
team lost twice in three games and did not qualify for the finals. India's lack of preparation showed in
the 2006 ICC Champions
Trophy as they lost to West Indies and Australia, though Dhoni scored a half-century against West Indies.
The story of the ODI series in South Africa was the same for both Dhoni and India as Dhoni scored 139 runs
in 4 matches and
India lost the series 4–0. From the start of the West Indies ODI series, Dhoni had played 16 matches, hit
just two fifties and averaged 25.93. Dhoni received criticism on his wicket-keeping technique from former
Kirmani. Yet, for his performances in 2006, he was named in the World ODI XI by the ICC.