Story of Santosh Lal, The Man Who Taught Dhoni ‘Helicopter Shot’

Read the tragic story of the inventor of the ‘Helicopter Shot’ – MS Dhoni’s childhood friend Santosh Lal. 

2 min read
File image of Santosh Lal (L) with Mahendra Singh Dhoni (R).

Mahendra Singh Dhoni, India’s most successful skipper across all formats, came into the limelight after his explosive knock of 148 against Pakistan at Visakhapatnam in 2005.

However, his maiden hundred was not the only reason he made headlines the next morning. They were also about something unusual, something the cricketing world had never seen before – the ‘helicopter shot’ he played during the match.

But Dhoni didn’t invent the signature shot – it was someone else who taught him how to play it. In his biopic, MS Dhoni: The Untold Story, it is revealed that Mahi’s childhood friend, Santosh Lal, was the one who taught India’s greatest captain how to execute one of the most difficult-looking shots in cricket.

Sadly, Santosh passed away in July 2013, after battling acute pancreatitis.

Sushant Singh Rajput, the ‘reel Dhoni’, showed us how he asked his friend (Santosh) to teach him the ‘Thappad Shot’, as he used to call it, in exchange for some samosas.

The on-field success might have kept Dhoni away from his friends circle, but the Indian skipper made sure to stay in contact with Santosh. Both of them had spent a lot of time together during their stint with the Jharkhand Ranji Team during Dhoni’s early days.


Even during Santosh’s last stages, Dhoni did everything he could to save his friend’s life, but found no success. Although Dhoni was away on tour with the Indian team when he was made aware of his friend’s condition, he arranged for an air ambulance to transport Santosh from Ranchi to Delhi in order to get him better treatment.

Unfortunately, bad weather meant that the helicopter was forced to land at Varanasi before reaching Delhi. And when it eventually did, it was too late for Santosh.

Both Dhoni and Santosh used to play a lot of tennis-ball cricket in Jharkhand and also used to travel across the state to play the sport.

Nishant Dayal, an old friend of Santosh, told The Indian Express three years back that MSD and Santosh were the “best of friends since childhood”, and that the Indian skipper was a great admirer of Santosh’s batting style.

Nishant said, “He and Dhoni would play tennis ball games endlessly. They both worked for the Railways. Santosh was fearless as a batsman. Over the years, Dhoni may have patented the ‘helicopter shot’ but growing up, there was someone who was better at it. Dhoni always admired his batting style. And Santosh taught him to play the helicopter shot”.

(With inputs from Indian Express)


(This story was first published on 3 October 2016. It is being republished in lieu of Mahendra Singh Dhoni announcing his international retirement)

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