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Dhoni’s iconic sixes: The helicopter to the Kulasekara launch

Wisden India logo Wisden India 25-10-2016

Mahendra Singh Dhoni smashed his way to another milestone in the third One-Day International against New Zealand in Mohali on Sunday (October 23).

© AP Photo

He broke Sachin Tendulkar’s record for the most sixes (195) by an Indian in ODIs, and also shattered Ricky Ponting’s record for most sixes (123) by a captain in the 50-over game. Currently, Dhoni lies fifth in the list of six-hitters, though with 196 maximums, he has Brendon McCullum (200) well in his sights.

Several of Dhoni’s sixes will remain forever etched in memory. Here’s a look at our top six ODI sixes to have flown off Dhoni’s flashing blade.

Sixing the six-man
April 5, 2005: Against Shahid Afridi in Visakhapatnam

There is a sense of irony about Dhoni’s first six spree, coming as it did off Shahid Afridi – the king of six-hitting in the 1990s. Promoted to No. 3 for the first time in his fifth ODI, a fresh-faced Dhoni with the famous coppered mane blasted his way to a memorable 123-ball 148 which was the first step towards establishing his legend. In the 40th over of India’s innings, he stepped out to hit Afridi over long-off. Afridi followed that with a wide ball to stop Dhoni from sweeping, but the next ball gave a glimpse of Dhoni’s anticipatory skills. Expecting the ball to come at him, Dhoni stepped out to power it over midwicket and move from 126 to 138 in the space of three balls.

The helicopter arrives
April 3, 2006: Against James Anderson in Margao

After tons against Pakistan and Sri Lanka, Dhoni was already a mirror-image version of Adam Gilchrist in the minds of Indian fans, but he needed a symbolic stroke to stamp his innovative skills. It’s now a blur but this is widely regarded as his first helicopter shot in top-flight cricket. It came off the first ball of the 49th over, bowled by James Anderson. “Not quite sure what he did there, but it’s very, very effective,” said Ian Botham on air. His unorthodoxy, learnt from his late friend Santosh Lal, first left everyone amused, before becoming a part of the game’s folklore.

Finishing off in style
April 2, 2011: Against Nuwan Kulasekara in Mumbai

“DHONIIIII … finishes off in style!” And then the twirl of the bat. Need we say more?

Master of mayhem
February 12, 2012: Against Clint McKay in Adelaide

Thirteen needed in the final over in a tense chase. Up against Clint McKay, Australia’s best bowler of the day with 3 for 40 until then. The equation was down 12 off four by the time Dhoni got strike. He was struggling a bit, having taken 55 balls for 33 runs. Nerves? Nah. Length ball, smashed over long-on, clearing the longest part of the ground with ease. The rest was just a formality.

Still got it!
October 23, 2016: Against Mitchell Santner and James Neesham

© AP Photo

With critics doubting his ability as the under-pressure hero, Dhoni promoted himself to No. 4 in a tall chase to give Virat Kohli company. Grit written large on his face, he looked purposeful right from the start and when he stepped out nonchalantly to hit Mitchell Santner for a hit over long-off to become the fastest to 9000 ODI runs, it all looked so scripted. Then, his third six during the course of his first fifty in over a year – into the sight screen off James Neesham – took him past Tendulkar for the most sixes by an Indian. Point proved without fuss – yet again.

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