Former BCCI chairman of selectors Kiran More has recalled how his team convinced former India captain Sourav Ganguly to let MS Dhoni keep wickets for East Zone. Dhoni was the keeper instead of Deep Dasgupta in the 2003-04 Duleep Trophy final against North Zone.
During that period, India didn’t have a specialist wicketkeeper-batter. Instead, they had asked Rahul Dravid to fulfill that responsibility. The legendary batter did an impressive job. But the selectors felt that the team needs a specialist who can also give them some quick runs in the lower middle-order.
How Ganguly was managed to let Dhoni in:
“We were looking for a wicket-keeper batsman,” More said in a YouTube show The Curtly and Karishma Show. “At that time the format was changing and we were looking for a power-hitter, someone who can come at No.6 or 7 and get us quick 40-50 runs. Rahul Dravid played 75 ODI matches as a wicket-keeper and he played the 2003 World Cup as well. So, we were desperate for a wicket-keeper.”
So when More heard about an upcoming player Dhoni from his colleagues, he flew to witness the future India captain score 130 runs out of his team’s total of 170. “My colleague saw him first, then I went and saw him. I especially flew down and saw him get 130 runs out of the team’s total of 170. He smashed everyone.”
So impressed was More, himself a former India wicketkeeper-batter, that he went to Ganguly to try and convince him to give a chance to Dhoni in the Duleep Trophy final. And after 10 days of discussions, Ganguly agreed.
“We wanted him (Dhoni) to play in the finals as a wicket-keeper. That’s when we had a lot of debate with Sourav Ganguly and Deep Dasgupta – who played for India then and who was from Calcutta. So, it took about ten days to convince Sourav and his selector to ask Deep Dasgupta to not keep wickets, and to let MS Dhoni keep wickets,” More recalled.
Dhoni scored 21 runs in the first innings of the final before belting 60 off 47 in the second dig to give an account of his power game. He would later travel with an India A squad for a triangular series in Kenya, also involving Pakistan A apart from the hosts.
“Dhoni kept wickets, he smashed all the bowlers around, and then we sent him to Kenya for the triangular series involving India A, Pakistan A, and Kenya. MS scored about 600 runs and after that rest his history. So you need to give chances to a cricketer, who has something special in him, who looks like a match-winner. He had all the attributes. It was only a matter of time before all of them clicked together. We gambled on the right horse and it paid off. I gave credit to all of the members of that selection committee,” More said.