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Dhoni reveals toughest bowler he faced

The India legend admits he has always struggled with pace but his pick as the hardest to face is surprising when you look at the statistical evidence

In a long and distinguished career, India legend MS Dhoni has faced down some of the game's greatest bowlers, but his choice of the toughest bowler he's faced may raise some eyebrows.

Dhoni has played 453 international matches across all formats so far; he captained India to World Cup glory on home soil in 2011, the top of the Test tree, and the very first World T20 title too. He's scored more than 9,000 runs in ODI cricket, including 10 centuries, he has six Test centuries, 723 international dismissals with the gloves and the chants of the Indian faithful ringing in his ears whenever he comes out to bat.

And while the 12-year international career still has plenty of runs left in it yet, with such experience behind him Dhoni's opinion on who is the toughest bowler in world cricket carries considerable weight.

It's no surprise for a batsman raised on subcontinent wickets that no spinner in world cricket has troubled him much. Not the legendary Shane Warne, nor Sri Lankan wizard Muthiah Muralidaran.

So from the quicks, who: the Australian greats, McGrath, Lee or Johnson? Nope. South Africa's Dale Steyn, or Morne Morkel? Not them either. How about England's James Anderson or Stuart Broad? All tough, but none of them the toughest to face.

"All the fast bowlers are quite difficult, with the limited technique I had, it was very difficult to face the fast bowlers," Dhoni explains.

"Still, if I had to pick one, I would pick Shoaib Akhtar."

From the Vault: Shoaib sizzles at the Gabba

Dhoni made the admission the Rawalpindi Express from their fiercest rivals caused more trepidation than any other at a charity dinner hosted by current India captain Virat Kohli this week.

Their paths crossed just 10 times in international cricket: five Tests, and five ODIs. Despite limited contests against each other, the Rawalpinidi Express clearly made his mark, and enjoyed good success, particularly in one-day matches.

"Very simple reason: he was quick, he was fast, he could bowl a yorker, he could bowl a bouncer but you never expected a beamer," Dhoni said.

"He was a bit unpredictable (but) he was fun to play against.

Akhtar has a career return of 3-32 from the 39 balls he bowled to Dhoni in ODIs, and 1-71 from 83 deliveries in Test cricket.

Shoaib claimed Dhoni's wicket just once in Test cricket // Getty
Shoaib claimed Dhoni's wicket just once in Test cricket // Getty

In their first Test against each other, in early 2006, Dhoni did not bat as poor weather dominated. In the second, he scored a sensational 148. From 28 Akhtar deliveries, 46 runs flowed from Dhoni's bat.

Dhoni next faced Akhtar in whites in 2007 in Delhi, and scored 4 of his 57 off Akhtar, from 12 balls. Dhoni added another half-century in the next Test, with 11 from 20 coming against Akhtar.  In the second innings he was promoted to No.3 to chase quick runs for a declaration, and having taken 10 from 12 balls against the quick, was then bowled by a slower ball.

But it is in ODI matches where Akhtar had real success against Dhoni.

In their first 50-over game, Dhoni had 63 on the board – six of them from Akhtar's bowling – before the Pakistani snared the outside edge with the first ball of a new spell late in the innings.

Next match, he made just four before again being caught behind, this time done in by extra bounce.

Akhtar celebrates bowling Dhoni with a slower ball // Getty
Akhtar celebrates bowling Dhoni with a slower ball // Getty

Third match, Dhoni had just seven runs from Akhtar's 10 balls, before again being bowled by the slower ball, departing for a total of 49.

The Indian would not lose his wicket again to Akhtar, scoring nine from eight balls and eight from eight balls in their next two, and final, clashes.

In Test cricket, England seamers Anderson and Broad have Dhoni's wicket the most, with six dismissals each, in 19 matches for Anderson, 12 for Broad.

In ODIs, it is Brett Lee, with five dismissals from 19 matches, while in T20 internationals, four bowlers have taken his wicket twice. 

Vintage Akhtar turns back the clock


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