A highly skilled and talented cricket player, Mahendra has received numerous awards throughout his career, having won his first “Man of the Match” the very first time he played in the international field. He also holds world records for having the most runs, highest score, most innings, and catches, making him not just among the best cricket players, but one of the best sportsmen in the world.
Mahendra’s amazing athletic feats come as a result of his never–give–up attitude, which has helped him overcome many disappointments in his career and has caused him to keep on improving his skills. He is extraordinarily positive in his outlook in life and this has enabled him to always look beyond the discouraging incidents to the victories that lie in ahead. He is also a very aggressive and makes the most out of every opportunity that is presented to him.
Born in Ranchi in 1981, Mahendra Singh Dhoni is the son of Pan Singh, a junior manager at MECON; and Devki Devi. He has two other siblings: sister, Jayanti Gupta and brother, Narendra Singh Dhoni. Mahendra identifies himself with the Rajput, who are said to be descendants of the ruling-warrior class found in the Northern parts of India. Pan Singh originally came from Uttarakhand but transferred with his wife to Ranchi due to his work.
Mahendra’s passion for cricket started at a very young age. In fact, he was a great fan of Adam Gilchrist and Sachin Tendulkar, who were both famous cricket players. Adam Gilchrist is a record-breaking Australian cricket player who is most well-known for his aggressive style of play, while Sachin Tendulkar is highly regarded by most cricket fans as the greatest living batsman. Mahendra were also fans of the Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan and singers Lata Mangeshkar and Shreya Ghoshal.
Having seen their child’s passion for sports, Pan and Devki Singh often brought Mahendra to watch local cricket games on television and live. When Mahendra studied at the DAV Jawahar Vidya Mandir, Shyamali, he became heavily involved in badminton and football, making him one the school’s most excellent players. Because of his talent in playing these sports, he was often included in the school’s representative teams at the district and club level competitions. Mahendra was the school’s football team goalkeeper.
After noticing his potential for playing cricket—particularly his swing—his coach sent him to the local cricket club to try the sport out. Despite not having played cricket before, Mahendra immediately got used to playing the game and soon became one of the best wicket keepers, playing regularly at the Commando cricket club from 1995 to 1998.
Due to his incredible performance, he was picked to compete in the 1997/1998 season for the Vinoo Mankad Trophy Under-16 Championship. Despite his team being unable to take the championship home (losing by just a few points), the crowd was amazed at Mahendra’s excellent performance.
Mahendra was encouraged by his parents to attend college; however, while he filled out dozens of examination forms for different schools, he never got to sit for any of them due to his busy schedule as a cricket player.
In 1997, while Mahendra was playing in his tenth standard during the school league finals, he decided to take on cricket seriously. He began to practice further and improve his skills and by the 1998/1999 season, he was included in the Bihar U-19 squad and scored 176 runs in five matches despite the team not making it into the quarterfinals because they finished fourth in the group of six.
Prior to his selection, Mahendra wanted to join the East Zone U-19 squad and the Rest of India squad, two champion teams, but was rejected due to his lack of experience. Although very disappointed about the decision of the two teams, Mahendra kept on practicing and became very good at playing.
In the 1999/2000 season for the Cooch Behar Trophy, Mahendra’s U-19 team advanced to the finals, with Mahendra making 84 runs to help Bihar have 357 points. For that tournament, Mahendra contributed 488 runs, 17 catches, and 7 stumpings, which was a great feat for someone in his position. And although he was able to play for the East Zone U-19 team for the CK Nayudu trophy, he only managed to score 97 runs in four matches, due to the team finishing last in the tournament, losing all four matches.
Mahendra’s last disappointment did not stop him from playing the game that he loved. In that same season, he played for the Bihar team, winning the Ranji Trophy against the Assam cricket team. That game also marked his debut as an 18–year–old player, making 283 runs in five matches. In the 2000/2001 season, although his team lost against Bengal, Mahendra was able to play very well, scoring his maiden first-class century.
Although he was doing very well in his career as a cricket player, Mahendra’s personal life was in a desperate situation. In 2001, Mahendra applied for a job as a ticket examiner at the Kharagpur railway station. Many of his colleagues at Kharagpur described Mahendra as a very honest and straightforward employee, with a ridiculous amount of passion for cricket. In fact, during the weekends, when his colleagues were out in the bars drinking, Mahendra would be out in the fields playing cricket for his team. He would also take leaves of absence so he can attend cricket games.
Although liked by his superiors for his honesty and integrity, Mahendra did have a mischievous side to his personality. In one incident, while staying at the railway quarters, Mahendra and a couple of his colleagues and friends woke up late at night, covered themselves in white sheets and blankets and walked around the complex. It so happened that the guards doing the night shift saw the act and were fooled into thinking that ghosts were inhabiting and haunting the complex. The following morning, the incident broke out and became a hit on the newspapers and television stations.
In 2003, due to the increasing number of invitations to play cricket, Mahendra resigned from his job and spent all of his time on his career as a cricket player. In that same year, he also joined the Jharkhand team, where he performed impressively on the field. In the 2002/2003 season, Mahendra made three half centuries for the Ranji trophy and two half centuries for the Deodhar trophy. He also started getting recognition for his hard hitting batting and low-order run contribution.
In the 2003/2004 season, Mahendra was included in Jharkhand’s East Zone squad that got the Deodhar trophy and he contributed 244 runs in four matches. That same season, while competing for the Duleep Trophy, Mahendra was chosen over the famed International cricketer Deep Dasgupta to represent the East Zone. And although the team lost, Mahendra was still able to make a good performance by scoring a half century in the second innings.
Mahendra had always wanted to join and represent his nation’s team in the international tournament. And even though he had a lot of losing streaks in his local career, he kept on moving forward, improving his cricketing skills any way he can. Because of this, he performed so well in the field that a lot of people started noticing him.
But the turning point in Mahendra’s career started when PC Podar, a Bengal team captain in the 1960s, witnessed Mahendra’s performance in the Jharkhand team during a match in Jamshedpur in 2003. He was very impressed with Mahendra that he sent a report to the National Cricket Academy and by the 2003/2004 season Mahendra was included in the India A squad.
In the game against Zimbabwe in the 2003/2004 season, Mahendra showed his best wicket-keeping effort by having seven catches and four stumpings in the match. In the next game, which was a tri-nation against Kenya and Pakistan A, Mahendra was one of the best players in the India A team, helping the team chase the target of 223 by making a half century.
He also made two back-to-back centuries against Pakistan A to win the match. Overall, Mahendra scored 362 runs in seven matches, catching the attention of Sourav Ganguly, the Indian Cricket team’s captain, Ravi Shastri, and other officers from the Indian team. In spite of this, India A’s team coach, Sandeep Patil, did not recommend Mahendra for the Wicket-keeper position in the Indian squad, instead he promoted Dinesh Karthik, a fellow team mate.
This disappointment did not keep Mahendra from moving further in his career. After having so many record-breaking performances with the India A squad, Mahendra was chosen to join the ODI squad for the Bangladesh tour in the 2004/2005 season. Despite having a poor-to-average start in the game against Bangladesh, Mahendra was still chosen to participate in the game against Pakistan. During the game, in the second match, Mahendra scored 148 in Vishakapatnam off 123 deliveries, surpassing the record for the highest score by a wicketkeeper for India. Before the end of the year, Mahendra surpassed his own record.
In 2005, Mahendra went further in his ODI career and began playing in the Indian Test as well. During the third ODI games for the 2005 season held in Jaipur, Mahendra was number three in the player rankings. The game was quite of a challenge for India, with Sri Lanka initially gaining the lead. However, after Mahendra was promoted to accelerate the scoring, he led the team to victory after gaining an unbeaten 183 off 145 balls. A year later, this inning was described in Wisden Almanack as “Unhibited, yet anything but crude.”
Mahendra’s inning set numerous records in cricket history, including the highest Individual score in ODI cricket in the second innings, a record that has never been defeated. Mahendra Singh Dhoni concluded that year’s series with the 346 run aggregate, the highest ever counted. For these amazing feats in performance, Mahendra received the Man of the Year award and was signed by BCCI to a B-grade contract, bypassing the C-grade level.
In that same year, Mahendra played in the Test Series for the Indian team, replacing Dinesh Karthik for the wicket-keeper post. In spite of the heavy rain during the match, Mahendra scored 30 runs for the team and helped them get back in the game when they were at a critical point of losing against Sri Lanka. Mahendra’s aggressive innings caused him to gain his first half century in the second Test, which led India to defeat Sri Lanka that year.
In 2006, Mahendra experienced some initial challenges due to the Indian team doing poorly in their first ODI match of the year against Pakistan, scoring just 43 runs. However, the team made a comeback on the second and third matches after Mahendra scored 72 runs off 46 balls, helping the Indian team to take the lead in the series. During the final match, Mahendra scored 77 runs off 56 balls, giving India the championship by beating the Pakistanis in a 4-1 score for the series overall.
For his outstanding performance, Mahendra was named the number one batsman in the ICC ODI rankings on April 20, outranking Ricky Ponting, the then reigning batsman of the year. It was a short reign for Mahendra, however, as his spot was overtaken after a week by Adam Gilchrist, after his performance in the game against Bangladesh.
Although Mahendra and his team faced a lot of victories during the 2006 ODI series, they also encountered disappointing defeats. During the series for the DLF Cup 2006-2007, the Indian team lost twice in the three games and did not qualify for the finals. This game saw Mahendra only garnering 43 runs. The team also lost to the West Indies and Australia for the ICC Champions Trophy despite Mahendra’s aggressive innings and his half-century score.
The game against South Africa was also quite a big disappointment, with India losing 4-0 in the series and Mahendra only scoring 139 runs in the four matches. Mahendra received quite a number of criticisms for his playing methods as in the 16 matches that he played, Mahendra only hit two fifties and averaged 25.93. Amidst all the criticisms against him, Mahendra did not lose heart and kept on improving.
Mahendra’s test career for 2006 had a rough start, playing several tight matches against teams, such as Pakistan and England. During the second test match held in Faisalabad, India was playing a difficult game as they were 107 away from avoiding follow-on. However, Mahendra still played his well-known aggressive innings, scoring his maiden test century off 93 balls.
The next three games, one against Pakistan (which the Indian team lost) and the other against England (which had India leading 1-0), had Mahendra leading in the scoring. However, after numerous mistakes and dropped catches (which garnered a lot of criticism on Mahendra’s style of playing), Mahendra started to focus on improving his batting skills and wicket-keeping in order to perform at a better rate.
Mahendra’s House Gets Vandalized After Defeat
Improvements were seen during the 2007 Cricket World Cup series as India had 3-1 victories against Sri Lanka and the West Indies, with Mahendra averaging more than 100 in these games. However, during their matches against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, India suddenly bowled out of the World Cup after losing against these teams, with Mahendra doing poorly and scoring only 29 runs.
After this devastating defeat, it was reported that the house which Mahendra was having constructed in Ranchi was damaged and vandalized by political activists of the JMM party. Local police and security had to watch over Mahendra’s family to protect them from any assaults from fanatics who were angered at India’s loss at the World Cup.
Despite this unarguably disappointing loss, Mahendra never got discouraged. In the next game against Bangladesh, Mahendra made a comeback by performing really well, becoming the man of the match for his performance in that game. He also garnered the man of the series award after his sweeping victories in the next matches, getting 174 runs in three matches at an average of 87.00.
Afterwards, Mahendra was given an A grade contract and was nominated for the position of vice captain of India’s ODI team that was going to compete against South Africa for that year’s ODI series. During the game, Mahendra was able to equal Adam Gilchrist’s record for the most dismissals in an ODI inning by catching five players from England and stumping one. During the World Twenty20 series, which was held in South Africa, Mahendra was elected the captain of the Indian team. He led them to victory against Pakistan and became the second captain from India to win a World Cup in any form of the game.
On September 30, 2009, Mahendra took both his first and ODI wickets and managed to bowl Travis Dowlin, a very well-known player from the West Indies. Upon facing the Australian team, Mahendra aggressively took the field by storm, gaining 124 runs off 107 balls, and led the team to victory.
Greatest Cricket Team Captain of Pakistan
Mahendra’s career in being the vice-captain (afterwards captain) of the Indian cricket team soared in such a way like no one has ever seen before. It was under his captaincy that the Indian team saw numerous victories in all forms of cricket. In 2009, Mahendra led the Indian team against Australia, which they defeated during the Test series, winning the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. That same year, he also captained the Indian team against Sri Lanka, which they defeated for a series score of 2-0. Because of this, India went up to become the top team in Test cricket, the first time they ever got the position, and scored the highest total in a Test match, 726-9 in the third match of the series.
In July 2010, Mahendra married Sakshi Singh Rawat, a student of Hotel Management who was training at the Taj Bengal in Kolkata. The marriage brought a great surprise to Mahendra’s fans as well as the media because the wedding took place a day after Mahendra and Sakshi got engaged.
It was in 2011 that Mahendra received the greatest victory in his career. While playing in the World Cup series, they were pitted against Sri Lanka, which in the 2007 World Cup, beat them big time. This time, however, turned out to be a really serious turn-around for India. In the final match against Sri Lanka, India was down points when Mahendra stepped up to the batting order. The top three Indian batsmen were already taken out and the team needed more than six runs to keep up.
Building a good partnership with co-player Gautam Gambhir, Mahendra initially got 60 off 60 balls, later on greatly accelerating his flow of boundaries, ending the game with 91 off 79 balls. This caused India to win the world cup and Mahendra being declared as the greatest captain of all time in India by a number of his teammates and reporters who witnessed the match.
Mahendra’s bat, which he used during the winning match against Sri Lanka, was sold for INR 72 Lac, with the proceeds going to his wife’s charitable organization, the Sakshi Rawat Foundation, which aims to help orphaned children.
In February 2012, the Indian team, including Mahendra, got their first ODI win over Australia during the game held at Adelaide. During the final over, Mahendra hit a powerful six which travelled 112 meters off the bowling of Clint McKay. According to an interview made with Mahendra after the match, this six was more significant than the one he hit at the ICC World Cup final which they won.
Throughout his career, Mahendra has received more than 20 endorsements, ranging from shoes to communications. He has endorsed products, such as Reebok, Pepsi, Reliance Communications, NDTV, Aircel Communications, Reliance Energy and more.
Today, Mahendra keeps on playing cricket, the sport that he loves most. In many of his interviews, he stated that until the time comes that he could not play cricket anymore, he wouldn’t stop. He is also actively participating in his wife’s philanthropic activities, often donating wins to her charitable work to help orphaned children.
Organizations and Programmes Supported
- Sakshi Rawat Foundation
Awards and Achievements
- 2005: Received the Man of the Match Award in the game against Pakistan
- 2005: Received the Man of the Match Award in the game against Sri Lanka
- 2006: Became an NDTV Youth Icon
- 2006: Became a Pepsi & MTV Youth Icon
- 2006: Received the Man of the Match Award in the game against Pakistan
- 2006: Declared as the ODI Player of the Year by the ICC
- 2007: Conferred the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, India’s highest honour for achievement in sports
- 2008: Received the One Day XI Award from the ICC
- 2008: Conferred the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna
- 2008: Declared the ODI Player of the Year by the ICC
- 2009: Received the One Day XI Award from the ICC
- 2009: Received the Padma Shri Award
- 2009: Declared as the ODI Player of the Year by the ICC
- 2010: Received the One Day XI Award from the ICC
- 2010: Named the ODI Cricketer of the Year by Castrol
- 2010: Led Chennai Super Kings to win the Indian Premier League
- 2011: Conferred the honorary rank of Lieutenant Colonel
- 2011: Received the One Day XI Award from the ICC
- 2011: Included in the 100 Most Influential People of the World by TIME Magazine
- 2012: Ranked as the 31st Richest Sportsman in the World by Forbes Magazine
- 2011: Honorary Doctorate from De Montfort University