Mumbai Indians v Rising Pune Supergiant, IPL 2017, Qualifier 1 May 17, 2017

Dhoni destroys and delights Mumbai

MS Dhoni was far from his best leading into and in this game. But when the ball was put in his half, that hardly mattered - much to the delight of even staunch Mumbai Indians fans
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WATCH - Dhoni's crucial sixes

Barely 15 minutes into the first qualifier on Tuesday night, Rising Pune Supergiant were 9 for 2. At this point, the announcer at Wankhede Stadium screamed "Ra-haa-neee", probably expecting the crowd to cheer for the local boy even if he was playing for Mumbai Indians' opponent. His attempt was met with total silence; you could hear sweethearts exchange sweet nothings on Marine Drive outside the ground.

There was amiable applause when Ajinkya Rahane reached his half-century, but a louder cheer when he got out. It was hard to differentiate when the cheer for his dismissal transformed into one of welcome to MS Dhoni. And the cheer turned into a chant of "Dhooooni, Dhooooni" even before he had faced a ball. Pune were not on top here; they were on a shaky 89 for 3 in the 13th over. The blue flags of Mumbai were waving, but the chants were for Dhoni.

In Ben Stokes' absence from the lower order, the Pune top order was expected to step up. Instead, Rahul Tripathi got out for a duck and the run rate was under seven when Rahane departed for 56. Rohit Sharma brought on Jasprit Bumrah, who has a good T20 record against Dhoni, as soon as he came out to bat. Krunal Pandya and Mitchell McClenaghan came around the wicket to cramp Dhoni for room in the 16th and 17th overs to concede only four runs off six balls legitimate to him. Bumrah returned and Dhoni could barely connect, scoring only one run off the three balls he faced in the 18th over. Twelve balls to go, Pune 121 for 3.

The Dhoni we saw after that was the Dhoni the fans have been waiting for. Not Dhoni at his best, but Dhoni good enough to smash some of the best bowlers of the tournament. Mumbai's bowlers had done most of the work to restrict Pune to a sub-par score. Most, not all. Then they started making mistakes and Manoj Tiwary and Dhoni cashed in. While Tiwary received some width, Dhoni had some length balls coming his way and he dispatched three of those over the fence in the last two overs. Such was his connection, unlike earlier in the tournament, that even a back-of-length ball from Bumrah in the last over went flat over sweeper cover for six.

MS Dhoni made the difference between an inadequate total and a defendable one for Pune © BCCI

"If you see the last couple of games or even last year, he [Bumrah] has been successful against Dhoni," Mumbai's wicketkeeper-batsman Parthiv Patel said after the match. "He got him out in the last game here, with the kind of length which he was bowling [today]. He [Dhoni] obviously is a good player, so you've got to sometimes give it to the calibre of the batsman as well. Not taking away from Bumrah, he has been bowling brilliantly throughout the tournament, but in a one-odd game like this you've got to give credit to someone who has played so many knocks like this."

The crowd left their seats each time a six reached them, they waved the Mumbai flag even to cheer for Dhoni's sixes. Tiwary and Dhoni clubbed 41 runs in the last two overs to lift Pune to 162 for 4, what Parthiv called a par score. Leading up to the game, fans and experts had been rightly pointing out Dhoni's low average and slow strike rate. Here, he battled that lack of form and, even though he didn't clear the boundary as often as he used to, he did it often enough to post a defendable score.

"These kind of things can happen in this format when a set batsman is batting, and someone like Dhoni is batting," Parthiv said of the last two overs. "Obviously we were in control, but I wouldn't say just because of those two overs we lost the game."

Tiwary, on the other hand, thought the direction of the match turned tangibly in Pune's favour in the last two overs of their innings. "Definitely, the momentum shifted in the last two overs," he said. "Initially, when I was batting with Ajinkya, there was a strategic time out where with the captain and coach, the four of us decided that we can take the total to 160. We felt that the wicket was pretty dry and it was holding for the spinners and pacers as well.

"We were struggling to put away the slower ones and the variations until the 19th and 20th, where MS bhai played outstanding shots and it was not easy against Bumrah. But he showed why he is such a highly talented player with so much of ability to hit bowlers in the IPL for two-three sixes in those crucial situations."

Pune were the undisputed underdog in this qualifier. They were playing their first playoff but they had Dhoni, who can write a book, and then another, on how to win knockout matches and lift trophies. It will be a pity, though, if Pune win one more match and lift the trophy, and Dhoni wins his third IPL, but we don't have the defending champions present next year.

Vishal Dikshit is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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  • gaziraihan88 on May 18, 2017, 22:59 GMT

    Winning the WC is the greatest feeling of a player in any sport and more when you do it in sport crazy nations.I'm sure Dhoni is eyeing at least 2019 WC to say goodbye to the game for that feeling again.Maybe he has lost a bit of flair and bowlers have worked out a way to bowl to him after watching him play for so many years,but people should also notice he has become fitter and his keeping has improved somewhat recently.His chats with Smith while fielding also played no small part in RPS reaching the IPL final this year which he can do for Kohli with India.The only captain in the world who have won all ICC tournaments and topped ICC test rankings for his country for the first time while also currently the highest run getter in ODI's among active players with a average of 50+ and played the best innings for his country against the best 2 teams in last 2 WC's(SL,Aus) surely deserves more respect and place in the ODI team atleast until while his keeping doesn't falter.

  • DieselGodofThunderWDP4 on May 18, 2017, 11:08 GMT

    As somebody said, most respected player - Dravid, Most Loved Player - Tendulkar

    MOST LOVED & RESPECTED-MS DHONI

  • __PK on May 17, 2017, 22:02 GMT

    MSK Prasad can continue with the Best Wicketkeeper In The World myth for a bit longer.

  • cricfan6921404731 on May 17, 2017, 17:29 GMT

    I was in a mall with a huge screen when Dhoni was batting against SRH. Initially there were 10 people watching the display. By the last over the crowd had swelled to 100+.

    By the last ball, there were probably over 200 people in front of the TV across 3 floors. And the cheering started as the bowler started his run-up and hit the crecendo when Dhoni whacked the ball for a four to win the match.

    The place was Bangalore. This much crowd for PUNE vs Hyderabad? Because it was Dhoni...

  • CricNinja on May 17, 2017, 14:52 GMT

    @YogifromNY don't assume your dislike is shared by all non-CSK supporters.. i am a MI supporter but i love CSK too .. Just because of Dhoni ..They were an amazing franchise and one of most successful franchise in IPL history, i am waiting to see the boys in yellow back again next season.

  • YogifromNY on May 17, 2017, 14:10 GMT

    Why is it taken for granted that CSK will reappear? Who cares for CSK anyway? The most disliked team by non-CSK supporters (thanks to those same supporters' arrogance).

  • AndySaywell on May 17, 2017, 13:53 GMT

    Dhoni, Dhoni.........................................

  • forExcelienceInCricket on May 17, 2017, 13:36 GMT

    Some felt RPS had no chance v MI in absence of excellent Stokes & Tahir. Probably they forgot "When Going Gets Tough, Tough Get Going". MSD's excellent contribution in RPS's win over MI in Qualifier1 for some is a case of "Oh No Not Again" but they have to be prepared for more at least till CWC2019. It is natural to have some (in IND & fans of teams) who grudge MSD's success & IND's general dominance in world cricket from Sep 2007. For common cricket fans MSD is a great inspiration, the greatest ODI all-rounder, great innovative wicketkeeper & greatest captain in all forms of world cricket in history of the game. It is case of a one of the greatest ever ambassadors of cricket demonstrating his focus, commitment, perseverance, hard work, resilience & discipline to continue his journey in sport. His performances have been marked by far too many good knocks in wins, draws, losses & too may surprise team successes against better teams AUS/SA/ENG & in big events with stunning regularity.

  • DriftTurnAndBounce on May 17, 2017, 13:04 GMT

    RAMLI: "So, RPS is lifting the cup and disappearing from scene ... who cares?" Lot of people care. Maybe those CSK fans who were predicting doomsday for IPL just because CSK were banned, would like to believe otherwise but reality is IPL went on just fine these last two years when CSK were banned.