Before MS Dhoni went on to redefine Indian cricket with his attacking approach, stroke play and power hitting, he had to struggle to be given a chance just like anyone else.
However, not many will be aware that it needed considerable persuasion from the then-selection committee, led by Kiran More, for the wicketkeeper to be given a proper chance to prove himself.
More, speaking on YouTube channel The Curtly and Karishma Show narrated Dhoni’s journey into the India team that started when the player was allowed to keep wickets in the 2004 Duleep Trophy final for East Zone ahead of Deep Dasgupta. However, the decision was not an easy one to make as Dasgupta, a Bengal and India keeper, had the backing of skipper Sourav Ganguly.
The former chief selector, though, convinced of Dhoni’s idiosyncrasies after watching him score 130 out of a total 170 in a domestic game, was eager to try out the 22-year-old in the game against North Zone. Admitting that the experiment of having Rahul Dravid keep wickets had run its course, More was on the lookout for a specialist keeper who could bat lower down the order and score quick runs for the team.
The job of convincing the Indian skipper, though was not an easy one as Dasgupta, Ganguly’s statemate, was supported tremendously by the left-hander.
“We had a lot of debates with Sourav Ganguly and Deep Dasgupta – who played for India then and who was from Calcutta. So, it took about ten days to convince Sourav and his selector to ask Deep Dasgupta to not keep wickets, and to let MS Dhoni keep wickets,” More, a wicketkeeper himself, stated.
His determination to play Dhoni paid off as he not only kept wickets in the final but opened the innings for East Zone as well along with Shiv Sunder Das. He was unable to get going in the first innings, scoring only 21, but smashed 60 off 47 in the second innings against bowlers such as Gagandeep Singh and Ashish Nehra.
Dhoni’s heroics propelled his selection in the India A team for the tri-series in Kenya that also featured Pakistan A. After a stellar outing, where he ended as the highest run-scorer, scoring 362 runs with two hundreds and a fifty in six innings, Dhoni soon received his call-up to the international team.
“You need to give chances to a cricketer, who has something special in him, who looks like a match-winner. He had all the attributes. It was only a matter of time before all of them clicked together. We gambled on the right horse and it paid off. I gave credit to all of the members of that selection committee,” More said.
Subscribe to the Wisden Cricket YouTube channel for post-match awards, player interviews, analysis and much more.