Australia v India, CB Series, Adelaide February 12, 2012

Dhoni chases at his own pace

In taking almost no risks during his innings, MS Dhoni took India's chase into the final over. But as he usually does in ODIs, he got the job done

It was clear MS Dhoni would have to inspire the team off his bat. If there was ever going to be a turnaround in his captaincy, it would have to begin with his bat. There are times when captains have to do that, times when nothing else works. And Dhoni's captaincy hasn't been working. His selection moves and press conferences, ditto. His wicketkeeping hasn't been flash either. Dhoni was in a corner. The only way out was going to come off his bat. And how teasingly it came.

The critics have been after Dhoni, and justifiably so. In such times everything he does can seem wrong. Had India lost today, his team-mates might have been after him too. Gautam Gambhir said at the press conference that the match should have been won by the 48th over. Imagine what the scenes in the dressing room would have been like had India not won even in the 50th.

Dhoni may not be the smartest tactician on the field, he may not have been a proactive leader on this tour, he may have struggled as a Test batsman, but you can't take his ODI batting away from him. When nothing else works, expect it to. He pays his bills through his one-day batting. Even though India didn't win a game in the ODIs in England, Dhoni was Man of the Series for his batting. He dug a small hole for himself tonight, but he was adept at springing out of it.

Dhoni would have seen India lose their way in the previous game, when all the middle-order batsmen played rash shots, and Ravindra Jadeja and R Ashwin had to bail the team out. That was perhaps why he was a little over-cautious at the start of his innings. India had just lost two set batsmen within 12 runs when Dhoni came in to bat, and too often have India collapsed on this tour without making the partnership count. Despite it being a Powerplay, Dhoni scored just two off his first 16 balls.

Soon the engine warmed up, the calculator in his head started working, the compass directed him to gaps, and his strong legs started charging for couples to complement the odd boundary hit by Suresh Raina. Seamlessly Dhoni scored 25 off his next 30 balls without a boundary. He was not going to take risks. He wanted to see this through even if it meant leaving it very late.

Dhoni wasn't going to have it easy, though. Raina, who had played his best innings of the tour, premeditated a charge and a bunt for a single into the leg side, and was bowled, leaving India 31 to get off 23 balls. Ravindra Jadeja's limitation as a No. 7 batsman soon made itself apparent. There is much to like about Jadeja, but he cannot hit the ball out of the ground. A No. 7 has to do that. India now needed 13 off eight, but Dhoni was on strike.

Dhoni stayed cool. He wanted to bat the last over. However, he couldn't find the gap to take a single. Fifth ball of the 49th over, he would have wanted a single to allow Ashwin a free hit off the sixth. Pushed straight to cover. Now he needed a single just to retain the strike. Pushed not far enough to the left of the bowler, Xavier Doherty.

Knives begin to sharpen. Walls begin coming closer. Sensible people do unreasonable things. Ashwin did, walking right across the stumps to try and flick Clint McKay behind. Another miss. Now 13 off five. Finally Ashwin took a single, leaving Dhoni 12 to get off four.

Dhoni remained emotionless, a man who knew the target could be achieved in two hits, that he was capable of hitting those two hits, that he had done it before, and that he had done it so well it seemed planned. Then boom. Dhoni got a length ball and he lofted it for a six, far enough to clear any ground in the world. He did not move. He looked at the bowler. The bowler now knew this could get over in one ball. No, he feared it could get over in one ball.

It did get over in one legitimate delivery. Dhoni, unaccustomed to showing emotion, completed the third and final run, and quietly plucked out a stump as a souvenir. He even compared the six to the World Cup final six. That one wasn't necessary, he said. They could have won that game in singles. This one was essential. He knew this was not a mere game he won. He needed this six to hope of turning things around as captain.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • rsurya on February 13, 2012, 19:26 GMT

    I wish that last six had gone a miss hit and match lost, coz this culture should not be encouraged, its useless to play like this and win. Please don't say him the best finisher. Lance klusener will get confused...

  • tusharkardile on February 13, 2012, 15:03 GMT

    it was a scratchy innings except for the six in the last over. Gambhir and Raina almost made sure we dont lose the game, but Dhoni did give us some drama by playing extremely slow until 49th innings. And Monga comes out and writes this article as if Dhoni won the game singlehandedly.

  • muski on February 13, 2012, 11:06 GMT

    Yeah you are right- Never mind his jumping jack batting technique in tests. Every now and then he produces a gem like the one he produced yesterday. That is certainly paying his bills. If not for this strong reputation as the best finisher of ODI among his contemporaries, he would have found it very hard to remain in this Indian line up. Now that he has made enough money for couple of generations, it is high time he relinquishes his test spot to a more worthy individual and hands over the captaincy to Gambhir. Its not that Gambhir could be a better captain- atleast Gambhir is a guy who plays with passion and a guy on whom losses hurt and we will certainl not blabber in press conferences saying that we need to bat, bowl and field better.

  • dummy4fb on February 13, 2012, 10:41 GMT

    First up.... we win as a team and loose as a team...... In overseas when you need win desperately and if you are dhoni you try to be over sensible and he did the job.Thats what his game is he would have killed the match till 46 47 in india hey he ain't sehwag or raina to counter attack........thats his way.. respect it...please

  • dummy4fb on February 13, 2012, 10:38 GMT

    dhoni started very slow... creating pressure on the others.... but i remember a time when dravid used to play the sheet anchor's role and yuvraj or dhoni would absorb the pressure created by the mounting required run rate by pulling off the big hits....

    i guess dhoni has tried to step into dravid's shoes in recent years after becoming captain... unfortunately, the rainas and the jadejas of today r nt quite in the same league as yuvraj or dhoni were back then....

  • jack.rambo on February 13, 2012, 10:07 GMT

    Good article but I still agree with Gambhir's comments that the match should have been over in the 48th over. I am not criticising Dhoni's batting in the ODI format but just saying that it is a high risk strategy to take the match into the final over. The batsman may hit a six or could have gotten out. It was good luck that it came off but it is a 50% chance only. BTW Dhoni should be dropped from the Test team & T20 team as his stats are very poor in those two formats.

  • joshvino on February 13, 2012, 9:51 GMT

    "Ya Dhoni gave us a bollywood Climax or it ll be nice to say as IPL climax . because We indians like films and excitement of IPl , not the reality . look at the way dhoni batted he just scores 7 to 10 runs of first 30 balls where the non- strikers will feel the pressure and they put extra effort to keep the runrate alive and forced to give their lives .Also ravi shastri mentioned during SL match he also Ran out his partners a quite a lot of times during the death trying to increase the tempo of the game.If you are a senior batsman you have to take the responsibility and ease the pressure of the youngsters in which Yuvi was the king . Yuvi was the Finest finisher in ODi's ." Thanks for the Mckay's length ball and a No ball .Atlast dhoni come to the press conference and Blame the youngsters for their shots .He is forgetting that he made them to play those shots .But he is a master in Attracting people by close finishes like this ,instead of finishing early ."thanks for his IPL tactics"

  • Bigchops on February 13, 2012, 9:14 GMT

    India,Zimbabwe,Australia and Ireland now thats what I call a Tri Series

  • dummy4fb on February 13, 2012, 9:01 GMT

    People say Dhoni lacks tactics , here a few reminders. In T20 he gave Joginder the ball, he did that bcos Joginder did well against other teams in the qualifiers , he promoted himself in WC 2011 because Murali was bowling and Yuvi has a weakness against Murali, he said after the match that untill it was 9 run per over he was not worried, he had a plan and kept the rate below 9, also he did this while being under the weather, NO CAPTAIN IN THE WORLD , NO MATTER HOW SHREWD CAN DO SOMETHING IF HIS TOP 5 BATS DONT PERFORM, AND HIS BOWLERS BALL ALL AROUND THE WICKET, for example, Stephen Fleming, one of the best captains , could not be world beating team precisely for this reason and Sri Lanka became world Champions preciously for the same reason, Dhoni did well in Tests when his team did what they are supposed to do. I Give him credit for having the guts of dropping Sachin, he is really Indias best captain.

  • dummy4fb on February 13, 2012, 9:01 GMT

    Had India lost the match, the only reason would have been the way Dhoni paced his innings. He came in when two wickets fell in quick succession. I don't understand why he took the batting power-play without even getting set. He defended his way though the power-play, scoring just 2 runs off the 16 deliveries he faced. Luckily India had Raina at the other end who kept the run rate under control with some good hits. Dhoni could have waited to get his eye in and then taken the power play. At least singles would have been available while he was playing his defensive game. One point to all those who criticize Raina and Jadeja for the way they got out. What do you expect them to do when almost no runs are coming from the other end? I would say its just because of luck that India won this game. How many of you feel that Dhoni can do the same every match? Its true that India won the game in the end, but we might have lost a game which should have won easily..

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