Few batsmen score over 10000 runs with an average above 50 in ODI cricket. Fewer still contribute 444 dismissals as wicket-keeper. Hardly anyone can be credited with captaining teams to World Cup victories in T20s and ODIs, No.1 Test ranking, and multiple IPL championships. 
MS Dhoni did all three.
After Martin Guptill’s run-out of Dhoni that effectively ended India’s World Cup dreams in 2019, Dhoni’s retirement was on everyone’s mind. Will he? Won’t he?
A year on down in times of COVID-19, MS Dhoni delivered the news in classic MS Dhoni style—in a subdued Instagram post. Shortly thereafter, his partner in crime, Suresh Raina, joined in retirement on Twitter.
Thala and Chinna Thala, or leader and juinor leader, as they are known in Chennai, MS Dhoni and SK Raina were synonymous with the Indian 2011 world cup winning team and numerous CSK victories. We look back at the illustrious careers of this dynamic duo, Dhoni and Raina—the stalwarts of Indian cricket team over the past decade and a half.
Raina and Dhoni both hailed from small towns in Ghaziabad and Ranchi respectively. Their rapid rise to international cricket is an inspirational story with hardwork and overcoming obstacles. In Dhoni’s case, the story captured by the late-Sushant Singh Rajput in M.S. Dhoni – The Untold Story.
Both Dhoni and Raina were multi-dimensional cricketers. While the Indian team revolved around Dhoni’s finishing ability, wicket-keeping skills, and captain cool nature, it was Raina’s fielding and off-spin that provided the team balance. Here are brief snippets of their statistics:
- ODI: 10773 runs, 50.57 average, best of 183*, 10-100s/ 73-50+ scores, 229 sixes, 321 catches/123 stumpings
- T20I: 1617 runs, 37.50 average, best of 56, 52 sixes, 57 catches/ 34 stumpings
- Test: 4876 runs, 38.09 average, best of 224, 6-100s/33-50+ scores, 256 catches/38 stumpings
- ODI: 5615 runs, 35.51 average, best of 116*, strike rate 93.5, 36 wickets
- T20I: 1605 runs, 29.18 average, best of 101, strike rate of 134.67, 13 wickets
- Test: 768 runs, 26.48 average, best of 120, 13 wickets
Although the numbers do not convey everything, Dhoni’s 50+ average and 84 not-outs reveals why he was considered the best finisher of the generation. As long as Mahi is there at the end, India was still in the game.
While Dhoni was India’s finisher, Suresh Raina was India’s insurance policy. If the top-order needed support, Raina was there. Jitters in the middle order? Raina was there. Need to score quick runs and accelerate? Raina was there. His consistently high strike rates reflect how good he was at reading situations and executing accordingly.
The legendary trio of Yuvi-Mahi-Raina rescued India on numerous occasions from dire situations.
My First Memory
My first memory of MS Dhoni in international cricket that caught my eye…did not actually involve watching Dhoni at all. I was on a road trip when an India-Sri Lanka ODI match was taking place.
We were listening to the commentary on a patchy radio station and checking the scores via paid text messages with spotty networks (yep, those days). The new kid on the block was promoted to No.3. Next thing you knew, he started to hit it out of the park.
He scored some runs, and then some more. The network disappeared and came back again. More sixes, more fours. Network out, back again. Eventually, with boundaries galore, India successfully chased 299 (which in 2005 was a huge score). Dhoni 183 not out.
Similarly, my first Suresh Raina memory did not actually involve his batting. Or his bowling. Or his catching. It was the one and only time I have ever seen a wicket by obstructing the field to Inzamam Ul-Haq.
That incident caught my eye. Like Mohammad Kaif, another captain from Uttar Pradesh before him, Suresh Raina was a marvelous fielder at backward point.
MS Dhoni and Suresh Raina were pillars of India’s ascent to the top between 2007 and 2013. An era that started with MSD captaining a bunch of unknown youngsters to the 2007 World T20 finals (although Raina was not in that team) and extending till the 2016 T20 world cup.
Victories at the 2007 T20 World Cup, 2011 ODI World Cup at home, 2013 Champions Trophy along with semi-finalists at the 2015 ODI and 2016 T20 world cups. Not a bad record, I would say.
Even though Suresh Raina made his name in ODI cricket, he had an impact in each format. With a century on Test debut in Sri Lanka and a century in the 2010 World T20, he was the first Indian to score centuries in all three formats.
There are several records and victories associated with these two, but what highlights of Dhoni and Raina will I remember the most? I will remember:
Dhoni’s stumpings, Dhoni’s sixes, Dhoni’s press-conferences
MSD’s glovework was second to none. Whether it is lightning-fast stumpings, between the legs-run out, the DRS calls, or that last ball run-out in the T20 World Cup, he redefined wicket-keeping.
The trademark helicopter shots, that 91* in the World-Cup final, finishing off with a six for a fun. And finally, out of nowhere, in a middle of the test series in 2014, the retirement in Australia.
And Raina? For me, personally, I will remember his hoicks over mid-wicket and his absurd 87 off 25 in IPL 2014 Qualifiers. The best IPL innings of all time in my opinion. Regardless,
The beauty of a great Suresh Raina innings is you remember the impact, not the score.
More often then not, Raina was unbeaten at the end. Raina’s 34*(28) and 36*(39) in the quarter-finals and semi-finals chases were just as important as Gambhir’s 97 or Dhoni’s 91 in the final.
But every good thing has to come to an end, right? Dhoni’s distinguished career had to end anti-climatically with a run-out. Raina, marred by injury issues, retired at the age of 33, only playing 3 ODIs after the age of 29, when batsmen are usually at the prime.
Their legacy though would be determined by their partnership. MS Dhoni and Suresh Raina remind me of the movie, Ratatouille. Okay, let me explain.
Both of them, were great cricketers in their own right. Together, though, they were like cheese and strawberry.
Combined together, something really special was created.
As dependable finishers in the middle-order, one of the best runners-in-between the wickets, wicket-keeper and off-spin bowling partners, or as captain and #3 batsman at CSK as Thala and Chinna Thala, it was their partnerships together that made this journey memorable.
It is only fitting that they retire from international cricket together. Let us sit back nicely and watch them in the IPL while we can for a few more days.
To conclude, here is are some nice videos by the ICC and Cricket Australia on Dhoni and Raina:
- Tribute to Dhoni
- “Dhoni finishes off in style”
4. Raina’s Run-out (2016 T20 World Cup)
5. Raina’s 36 – 2011 Semi-Final
What were your favorite Dhoni and Raina memories? Comment below, share, and subscribe! If you like to read more about cricketing heroes, check out our tribute to Rahul Dravid.
Sources:  Quote adapted from Stanley Wolfart,  ESPNCricinfo – Statistics,  YouTube,  IPLT20.com – Videos,  cricket.com.au,  Vandit
Image Courtesy of vijay chennupati / CC BY creative commons license, some rights reserved (Suresh Raina)
very nice artlcle…
Thank you so much! I liked the analysis in your 3 Phases of MS Dhoni’s career as well. I think the Indian team benefited most from his second phase, but he was a delight to watch at No.3 in his first phase.