There are many players and teams that can be classified as chokers. They are great, but perish under pressure. Then there's Indian legend MS Dhoni. He could be called the anti-choker. When the chips are down, he takes his game to a totally new level. Whether it's his captaincy, leadership skills or the weight of the whole team depending on him, it only makes him far better.
He won 3 straight ICC finals from 2007-11 (2007 T20 World Cup, 2011 ODI World Cup and 2013 ICC Champions Trophy). At a time when New Zealand-South Africa didn’t win a single ICC knockout game in their lives, Dhoni scored 7/7 in the knockout final games in those tournaments.
He had won a record number of Tests for India even though Virat Kohli will probably leave him way behind by the time he is done. But he has also won a record number of triangulars and bilateral ODI/T20 series for India.
And the number of last ball victories he has achieved is so high that you cannot count them on the fingers of your hands. As a captain he reached the finals of two Champions League Twenty20s.
It's a perfect record of anti-choking except at the IPL. But first, let's leave Mumbai Indians captain Rohit Sharma out of it.
If you leave Rohit out, then Dhoni has played in four IPL finals and he has won a good three of them, in line with his international performance. He lost narrowly to Rajasthan Royals in 2008, but since then, captain Dhoni beat Mumbai Indians (led by Sachin Tendulkar) in 2010, Royal Challengers Bangalore in 2011 and Sunrisers Hyderabad in 2018.
So the above record is perfect. He is a Superman. Nobody in the world comes close. However, Dhoni and Rohit have met in the finals a record three times (2013, 2015 and 2019). Dhoni lost all three of those battles.
Dhoni was also captain of Rising Pune Supergiants, but sacked before the finals in 2017 when Steve Smith took over. And yet both Dhoni and Smith lost to Rohit yet again. In 2013, MI won by 23 runs and in 2015, by 41 runs.
However after that, did the choke set in?
In the 2017 final, MI made an abysmal 129/8 and any team would have chased down that score, especially, if it boasted the likes of Dhoni and Smith. But despite that, the game went to the last ball. RPS needed 11 runs off the last over. RPS started with a four, leaving just 7 off 5, highly gettable. But instead they lost 3 wickets in those 5 balls and lost by a solitary run!
The interesting part was that this drama was repeated in 2019. MI made a low 149/8 but still CSK huffed and puffed to the last over. They still required a gettable 9 runs off the last over. When they needed 5 off 3, Shane Watson (80 off 59) got an easy two which would have made it 3 off 2. But Watson got himself run out and they again lost by 1 run.
That looked like two chokes and not something you would accept from a Dhoni team. Dhoni has a perfect record in tournaments, home Tests, all ODIs/T20s. His only chink was the 0-8 overseas Test debacle in 2011.
And now count Rohit.
Rohit has won 4/4 IPL finals and all 4 have been with Dhoni on the other side. But interestingly if Rohit has to thanks anyone, it had to be Dhoni. Rohit was part of Dhoni's playing XI in the 2007 T20 WC final.
Rohit was totally lacklustre from 2007-12, but Dhoni pushed him so much that he became the butt of jokes. The jokes continue even today despite him performing so well.
From 2007-12, Rohit averaged just 30 in ODIs and he had just one century against a Top 8 team. Dhoni made him open and the rest is history.
From 2013-19, Rohit has made more than 6000 runs at an average of 58 with 20 centuries. Of course there's the little matter of three of them being 200s including the world record of 264.
Rohit has won 8/10 of the ODIs he has captained and 12/15 international T20s. Rohit's 80% T20I captaincy record overshadows Kohli's 57% and Dhoni's 59%.
The apprentice is now the master!
If Dhoni is Superman, then Rohit is Kryptonite. But we should probably celebrate the Kryptonite and be glad that it wasn't born outside India, for then our international record might have been different!