MS Dhoni vs Virat Kohli: Who Is Better?

kohli vs dhoni

MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli, two of India’s greatest cricket players and captains. Both have made an exemplary name for themselves by their game, and are followed by millions of fans all over the world. While one is known for his iconic ‘helicopter shot’, the other is famous for his ‘sweet cover drive’. 

There has been an ongoing debate between fan bases as to who is the better player and captain between Virat and Dhoni. While both have their strengths and weaknesses, we try to answer this stone age old question with the help of data and numbers. 

In this blog, we will be comparing the statistics of both these players as a captain and player, in the different formats of cricket. While it is hard to choose one over the other, by the end of the blog, we will have an idea as to who stands out, Dhoni or Virat?

So let the analysis begin!

Dhoni vs Kohli: Captaincy Records

Before seeing their record as a batsman, let us first look at who has been a better captain in all formats of the game:

A. Captaincy Record in Test Matches

StatMS DhoniVirat Kohli
Span2008 – 142014-22
Win %4558.82

When it comes to Test cricket, Kohli is the clear winner as a captain, with winning more than half games he captained, which makes him India’s most successful test captain.

B. Record in One Day Internationals

StatMS DhoniVirat Kohli
Span2007 – 182013-21
Win %59.5270.43

Even though Kohli has a better win% compared to MS Dhoni in ODIs, he has played less than half games in it as a captain. If we purely go by the numbers, Kohli is better but we cannot ignore the longevity of Dhoni as a captain. 

C. Record in T20 Internationals

StatMS DhoniVirat Kohli
Span2007 – 162017-21
Win %59.2864.58

If we are looking just at pure numbers, Virat Kohli once again seems better Captain than Dhoni in T20I.

D. Record in the Indian Premier League

StatMS DhoniVirat Kohli
Span2008 – 222011-21
Win %58.5848.16

When it comes to IPL, MS Dhoni is the clear winner as a captain. 

Who is better captain between Virat and Dhoni?

Looking at the win percentages of both Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni, Virat clearly seems to be a more successful captain that Dhoni across 3 formats of the game. But MS Dhoni has won more ICC tournaments & IPL than Kohli. So, if we take trophies and titles into account, then MS Dhoni is clearly a better captain than Virat. 

It must be noted that India under the captaincy of MS Dhoni has won three ICC trophies which are:

  • 2007 ICC World Twenty20,
  • 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup, and
  •  2013 ICC Champions Trophy

Virat Kohli on the other hand, failed to win an ICC trophy for India as a captain. 

Talking about the IPL titles, Dhoni has four to his name having them won with Chennai Super Kings as a captain in:

  • 2010,
  • 2011,
  • 2018, &
  • 2021

As for Virat Kohli, he has struggled to make a name for himself as a captain with Royal Challengers Bangalore, and has never won the IPL.  

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Dhoni vs Kohli: Batting Record

After comparing Dhoni vs Virat captaincy records in various formats, let’s do the same for their batting abilities. We will be analyzing their batting records across the same formats as we did for the captaincy. 

Note: for the comparison, we have taken data from 1st January 2002 to 15th August, 2022

A. Dhoni vs Kohli in Test Matches

Let us see how both these fair in the longest format of the game:

StatMS DhoniVirat Kohli
Balls Faced824914480
Batting Average38.0949.42
Strike Rate59.1155.63
Highest Score224254
Sixes 7824

Now, let us have a look at these stats in a more visual way based on the percentile rank:

Talking about test cricket, Kohli seems ahead of Dhoni in all departments except the strike rate, which is an insignificant factor in this format. Kohli’s batting average is almost 50, which is remarkable for test matches. He also has more fifties and centuries to his name.

B. Dhoni vs Kohli in One Day International

In the 50-over format, the two players seem to give each other a tough competition:

StatMS DhoniVirat Kohli
Balls Faced1230513296
Batting Average50.5857.68
Strike Rate87.5592.84
Highest Score183183
Sixes 229127

The stats of these 2 players while comparing on the basis of percentile rank are shown below:

If we are looking just at the numbers, then Kohli is slightly ahead in almost all aspects of ODIs, having played relatively the same number of balls.

C. Dhoni vs Kohli in T20 Internationals

In T20Is, the numbers are again in favor of Virat Kohli:

StatMS DhoniVirat Kohli
Balls Faced12822403
Batting Average37.650.12
Strike Rate126.13137.66
Highest Score5694
Sixes 5293

Now let us have a look at the visual representation of these stats based on a percentile rank:

Kohli is ahead here as well. But we must see that he has faced almost double the number of balls than Dhoni.

D. Dhoni vs Kohli in the Indian Premier League

The numbers in IPL are in favor of Virat Kohli except for strike rate where MS Dhoni is a bit better:

StatMS DhoniVirat Kohli
Balls Faced36825129
Batting Average39.19536.2
Strike Rate135.17129.15
Highest Score84113
Sixes 229219

Here is a visual representation of stats of both these players in IPL matches:

This is somewhat a close battle with Dhoni having a better average, higher strike rate and more sixes to his name. Kohli although has more runs and centuries, he has faced significantly more deliveries than Dhoni.

One important thing to note when we compare these two is that Kohli bats higher up the order, mostly at number three and sometimes even as an opener. Whereas Dhoni, for most of his career came five down or six down. 

This is an indicator that Kohli faced more balls, and had to bat in a different situation. While Dhoni was given the role of a finisher, and his batting was in line with that.  Kohli’s record and batting is better than Dhoni, but the circumstances and situations of their roles should be kept in mind. 

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So who is better, Dhoni or Kohli? Well even though we have analyzed them on various data points, it is hard to choose a clear winner. 

Purely number wise, Kohli is better both as a captain and as a batsman overall. But if we take trophies/titles, and the situations of the game into account, one can say Dhoni is better. 

To sum up, we can say that Virat Kohli is a better batsman whereas MS Dhoni has been a better captain. But both of them have done a lot for the country and they should always be appreciated. 

Who do you think is better? Let us know in the comments!

Frequently Asked Questions

1. When did MS Dhoni make his international cricket debut for India?

MS Dhoni made his international cricket debut for India on 23rd December, 2004.

2. When did Virat Kohli make his international cricket debut for India?

Virat Kohli made his international cricket debut for the senior Indian team on 18th August, 2008.

3. Who has more runs between Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni?

Virat Kohli has scored more runs than MS Dhoni with 24081 runs across three formats of the game.

4. Who is the current captain of the Indian cricket team?

Rohit Sharma is the current captain of the Indian cricket team.

5. Who is the current head coach of the Indian cricket team?

Rahul Dravid is the current head coach of the Indian cricket team. 

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