Punjab v Chennai, IPL 2010, Dharamsala April 18, 2010

Dhoni's audacity wins it for Chennai

Chennai had been in tight spots earlier in the competition and failed to hang on. Tonight, in a do-or-die match, they emerged trumps thanks to the sheer gall of their most valuable asset

Long before the Chennai Super Kings players mobbed their captain after he struck the game-winning six with two balls left, there was a far less cheery appearance to the squad. There was MS Dhoni - as he told it later - looking at how the campaign of a team that had never failed to reach the IPL semi-finals had led it to a knockout league match in Dharamsala, as far detached from Chennai's humidity as possible. Chennai had been hurt by the absence of two overseas allrounders, the ineffectiveness of their Indian fast bowlers, and the patchy form of Matthew Hayden and Dhoni for much of the competition. Their season had reached a point of great irritation and desperation.

Dhoni spoke after the match of how his own form had been a disappointing feature before this cracker of a contest, and that gave context to his rare outburst after sealing victory. When he slammed a second successive six off Irfan Pathan to ensure Chennai evaded elimination, Dhoni's passionate and intense release of emotion, which culminated with an uppercut he landed himself on the chin, spoke volumes. In the space of four deliveries Chennai clinched a thriller, and the resounding effect of Dhoni's performance echoed louder than many could have envisioned.

After another shambolic bowling effort - where the faster bowlers were again to blame - and another single-digit score from Hayden, two excellent innings from Suresh Raina and S Badrinath had ensured there was never any real panic during a huge chase. Dhoni commended the pair later, but his own role proved the decisive one. To hit 28 of the 29 runs needed from the two remaining overs, and with two balls to spare, was sublime. The turning point came in the penultimate over when, after hitting two boundaries, Dhoni was dropped by Kumar Sangakkara. In the final over, from which Chennai needed 16, Dhoni switched gears to smash two sixes.

There are three basic aspects to Dhoni's game - speed, confidence and unflappability. For someone with an unorthodox technique, the bat speed he generates is remarkable, his running between wickets is among the quickest India have seen, and his timing is sweet. And then there is the it factor: his seemingly nonchalant disregard for the opposition and an unfazed demeanour. Asian batsmen are known to be wristy craftsmen and Dhoni is the Andy Warhol of this artistry - bold, aggressive, and striving to redefine. That's what he did tonight when Irfan - whose pace was just how Dhoni likes it - was given the ball.

Such is Dhoni's swing, bat speed and ability to hang back in his crease that he can turn good deliveries into boundary-balls. The first ball was nearly a yorker, but Dhoni converted it into a freebie and bludgeoned it past extra cover for four with awesome wrist power. After a miscue for two, Dhoni reached out to a failed yorker and crashed it from outside off to on top of the roof behind long-on. It was an audacious hit, and you could only but sit and marvel at Dhoni's genius.

Dhoni's power-hitting has been influential in India winning many ODIs, but this was a different Dhoni after the win. "It was a very emotional moment for me, because franchise cricket is also professional cricket, " Dhoni said. "At the end of 20 overs it was very tough to say whether we could chase down 190-odd runs. Raina again gave us a start and soaked up all the pressure, and Badri batted really well. Because it was a small ground and the altitude is high the ball travels really far, and the outfield is quick, so at the back of my mind it was there that whatever runs were needed at the end, they could be achieved. Most chances are that I may succeed, about 60-70%, and that's what happened."

Dhoni has earned the reputation of being a great finisher and this was another example of just how devastating he can be. The situation was so precarious, but that's exactly when Dhoni chose to step up. Chennai had been in tight spots earlier in the competition and failed to hang on. Tonight, in a do-or-die match, they emerged trumps thanks to the sheer gall of their most valuable asset.

It was perhaps fitting that Dhoni rediscovered his mojo here in the Himalayas, for he originally hails from the hill region of Almora, in Uttaranchal. Tonight he played his part to perfection, flattening Kings XI Punjab with a brilliant innings and living up to his billing as a finisher. If the sky provided all the rain during a day that fluctuated from chilly to warm, Dhoni's bat took care of the thunder and lightning.

Jamie Alter is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Kamalraj on April 21, 2010, 19:23 GMT

    I think the best team for CSK will be

    1. Vijay 2. Hyden 3. Raina 4. Badri 5. Dhoni 6. Morkel 7. Badani 8. Thushara 9. Bollinger 10. Ashwin 11. Jakati

    Well balanced bowling and batting. Badani is a great bat with lot of experiance and a useful spinner.

    CSK is only team who made it to Semi in all 3 IPL. It's time for CSK to win.

  • Ajith Prasad on April 21, 2010, 10:18 GMT

    As I mentioned in my comment below the IPL instant heroes will now cite reasons for opting out of representing their country for T20 WorldCup and the rest that follows. Mr. Sehwag has already ruled out of the T20 WC.

  • Mahesh on April 20, 2010, 1:03 GMT

    Yes ,well done csk.High time to make some changes in the team.Its not compulsory to play 4 forign players.so drop hayden and open with murali vijay and anirudra,then in form raina,badri,dhoni,morkel kemp etc....if the pitch suits for spinners bring in the champion murali or take ganapathy and give him the new ball.he is a very good new ball bowler than tyagi and gony..so give him the chance,,,,,,,i telll u guys yes CSK will lift the cup this time...but be wary of symonds who si good form now....best of luck guysssssssssss

  • mukesh on April 19, 2010, 22:54 GMT

    Best cricket captain india ever produced....

  • Sharad on April 19, 2010, 22:08 GMT

    I'm a huge Dhoni fan. I was watching the highlights of this match when I realized that Badri played quite spectacularly. It's only fair to say that without his innings, CSK didn't stand a chance even with MSD's great shots towards the end. No wonder the honest man that he is, Dhoni mentioned Raina and Badri's efforts. Anil, watch & learn to appreciate your teammates as well as your opponents.

  • Dummy4 on April 19, 2010, 21:01 GMT

    I understand people dissing hayden cause he has had only one good game so far but Murali has been great barring that one match against KKR ( also rajasthan but then everyone except bollinger got taken to the cleaners that day) and for the remainder of the time he has been unfaily benched. I think he deserves a show in the semi. drop Tyagi and Kemp. Get an indian batsman and murali. it could be anirudha or arun karthik maybe they should give abhinav mukund a chance ( is he in the squad ?). I would still persist with hayden can't help but feel a monster innings is round the corner and god help bowlers that day

  • Harsh on April 19, 2010, 18:09 GMT

    He is not number 1 ODI batsman currently on ranking for nothing. Was I surprised with his knock ? NO He has done it million times. May be thats all he needed to get back into finishing touch. Suddenly CSK is biggest threat to claim the cup. It is really like lottery, as he suggested. MI vs RCB CSK vs DC, what a match up. May the best team performance on that day win. My pick would be MI vs CSK in final. Because if DC comes into final, Gilly will take it from MI, he always fires in semis and final. Peace

  • Manasvi on April 19, 2010, 17:02 GMT

    The best team for Chennai would be to drop Hayden, bring in Murali and drop Tyagi and bring in Aniruddha/Arun Karthik/Badani. The lineup that I favour would be: Vijay, Aniruddha, Raina, Dhoni, Badri, Kemp, Morkel, Muralitharan, Ashwin, Jakati, Bollinger 4 bowlers + 2 all rounders + 1 part timer Batting till No.7 (Morkel) and Ashwin and Jakati can bat a bit too. The important thing is to trust the spinners and allow them to choke the opposition, like Sri Lanka in the 90s. 3 spinners and Raina would make a good combo. Also, Aniruddha is a hard hitting batsman and he can also score as many runs as Hayden who is currently in poor form.

  • Aravinth on April 19, 2010, 15:03 GMT

    Dhoni is a real champ, I hope chennai wins the ipl 2010, and many more to come in 20-20WC. Good luck

  • Lakshmanan on April 19, 2010, 14:39 GMT

    Well done CSK! I thought CSK would lose the plot in the 20th over because it is never easy to score 16 in 6 balls despite the presence of a great finisher like MS; remember our taile-enders could not score even 3 runs in the last over against KXIP; CSK was lucky this time it was Irfan at the other end and not a Steyn or Vaas or Nannes or Lee because those experienced death over specialists would have bowled yorkers on the 6th stump which would have made sixes difficult; Vaas did an excellent job at the death against DD the same night. CSK has the hat trick now in being in the semis every time despite the absence of allrounders Andrew Flintoff & Jacob Oram, Justin Kemp for 70%, the 3-in-1 MSD for 4 out of 14 games all of which was lost, off-colour greats like Muthiah Murali and Haydos, club cricket pace bowling in the wrong areas by Balaji, Tyagi, Goni, Albie & Joginder; for semi, Douggy, Haydos, Murali, Albie shd be the 4 foreigners; Douggy/Murali/Ashwin/Jakati/Raina is formidable.

  • No featured comments at the moment.