Former India batsman Mohammad Kaif, who was the Man of the Match in MS Dhoni’s first ODI for India, recalled his first impression of the former India captain. Dhoni, who announced his retirement from international cricket earlier this year, cemented his legacy as India’s most successful captain, winning all three major ICC trophies and leading India to two World Cup titles, one Champions Trophy win and to the top of the ICC Test rankings for the first time.
Dhoni made his debut for India on December 23, 2004, in a match where Kaif scored 80 off 111 balls to help India beat Bangladesh by eight wickets. It was also the game where Dhoni was run out for a duck after facing just one ball. Exactly 16 years after Dhoni’s India debut, Kaif recalled the time he spotted a young Dhoni and what came to his mind.
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“The first time I noticed Dhoni, I was the captain of the Central Zone in the Duleep Trophy. And he was playing for East Zone, not as a captain, a wicketkeeper. He had also toured for India A,” a clip aired of Kaif as saying, on the Cricket Connected Show on Star Sports.
Kaif further revealed how prior to the match, a friend of his had informed him of Dhoni and his big-hitting skills. Kaif, along with the likes of Yuvraj Singh, Virender Sehwag, Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh, who were all part of the Indian team during Dhoni’s debut game and most of whom went on to play under Dhoni, revealed how none of the players could fathom just how good a captain he would become.
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“I had a friend in Lucknow who told me ‘Kaif, there is a player. Watch him. He has long hair and I’ve never seen anyone hit sixes like he does. All of us who were playing at that time – I, Zaheer, Harbhajan, Sehwag – none of us thought that he could captain India the way he did, who would lift Indian cricket to such heights,” Kaif added.