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July 13, 2013

A day that re-affirmed my love for cricket

Apoorv Sardeshmukh, India

MS Dhoni is set to launch the ball out of the ground, India v Sri Lanka, tri-series final, Port-of-Spain, July 11, 2013
MS Dhoni had the chase against Sri Lanka measured down to the last decimal © AFP

Every once in a while, there comes a day that makes me fall in love with the game of cricket all over again. Thursday, July 11, 2013 was a day like that. It was a day when a young man batted fearlessly, threw caution to the wind and played a Test match as if he was playing with his friends in his backyard. Late in the night, a not-so-young man played the most amazing limited-overs innings in a long, long time and made sane grown-up people jump around and dance at 3.15am.

These have not been the best of times for a cricket lover. In April and May, bookies and fixers were discussed more than cricket and cricket teams. Board appointments were given more prominence than team selections. The Champions Trophy was a welcome relief and the Indian team's performance brought a lot of joy. But this was followed by a triangular series in West Indies, which was so irrelevant and whose coverage was so bad, that one often wondered if the broadcasters actually wanted you to switch off the television and go to sleep.

Then the Ashes arrived. Australia picked a rookie 19-year-old left-arm spinner. He bowled seven overs and looked innocuous on day one. Bad, desperate selection, one thought. Jimmy Anderson then bowled a spell which only confirmed the long held belief that he is the best fast bowler in the world. On the second day, Australia were nine down for 117 and looking down the barrel.

Ashton Agar, batting at No. 11, then played such a refreshing innings that everybody, including the English fans, wanted him to score a hundred. Batting at No. 11, yes No. 11, he made Test cricket look ridiculously easy. He smashed the best fast bowler in world all over the park, and Graeme Swann, who was supposed to gobble up left-handers, was dispatched out of the park. All this was done with a smile on the face. When he fell on 98, scored with the enthusiasm of a school boy playing his first inter-school match with a new bat, the entire cricketing world was applauding. The sun was shining, cricket was played in whites and everybody had a smile on their face. Life could not be better.

But it got better. A few hours later, MS Dhoni scripted a victory that, at one stage, looked beyond him. Sachin Tendulkar fans might disagree, but MS Dhoni is possibly India's greatest limited-overs cricketer. The number of impact performances and match-winning efforts he has put in have taken him to a level much higher than anyone else. On Thursday night, he had the game measured to the last possible decimal. You often wondered what MS Dhoni was doing, but in his mind he was clear on how the target was to be achieved. One mis-hit, one unplayable delivery, one mix-up and it was all over. But Dhoni played almost the perfect innings and guided his team to an unforgettable victory. Only Javed Miandad can claim to understand one-day batting better. When he smashed Shaminda Eranga for a six to seal victory, one had to stand up and applaud, even though it was 3.15 am.

Days like Thursday make it worthwhile to be a sports fan. Call it paranoia, stupidity or as my wife often says, an unhealthy obsession, but there is no greater high in the world than watching a good performance on the sports field. There is no greater joy than watching your team achieve sporting success. Forget sponsors, forget players, forget officials - the game is played for the fans. Sport makes you the experience the worst lows and the most incredible highs. No sporting contest is ever irrelevant because someone somewhere is going to be happy or sad based on the result of that contest.

With his simplicity and boyish enthusiasm, Ashton Agar made us fall in love with cricket again. With his absolute brilliance, MS Dhoni made us sing and dance in love.

Such days are rare.

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Posted by Dummy4 on (July 15, 2013, 7:35 GMT)

With his simplicity and boyish enthusiasm, Ashton Agar made us fall in love with cricket again. With his absolute brilliance, MS Dhoni made us sing and dance in love.

Posted by Aditya on (July 15, 2013, 3:53 GMT)

@@Vishal_07 MS Dhoni averages 100.09 in successful run chases for India. Sachin 27.11.

seriously dude? Sachin averages 55 @ strike rate 90 opening mostly in successful chases. can only imagine wat the average wud have looked like if he batted at 6 & 7

Posted by Ramya on (July 14, 2013, 20:29 GMT)

Guys, we must not compare two men who are the best in their own league - Sachin is a master - he was the light at the end of the tunnel when Indian cricket did not have someone to look up to - so plz dont compare..... Sachin's battles were alone at a point of time - and fans used to switch off their tv sets once he got out.....

MSD - easily the best limited overs captain to lead India and no doubt is the best finisher of the game in the present day.He brings a diff style of play to the table that Indian cricket was never aware of - finishing the game in style..... We never had a Bevan, a Miandad or a Klusner and there were times we envied their national sides for having those men. MSD has made us the envy of the world now which we need to relish and enjoy

@ Ravishankar Balasubramaniam - Agreed for all trophies except the World Test Ranking - that was a process that was initiated by Ganguly and continued by Kumble - MSD gave the final touch - the real credit must go to the 1st two.

Posted by Dummy4 on (July 14, 2013, 9:11 GMT)

MSD has won every trophy in cricket. And as far as ODI goes has shot making ability of Sachin, Tenacity & patience of Michael Bevan, hence he ticks over. But Sachin was in principle who infused India into winning tough matches, so he still triggers emotions. But yes, MSD the best! t20 world cup IPL Champions league World cup - MoM in finals Champions league - MoM in finals & ultimately Test Chamionship (without Kumble or any of the best bowlers of the India ever).

Posted by Dummy4 on (July 14, 2013, 5:57 GMT)

@vishal _07: Michael Bevan never kept wickets for his side nor did he captain a side that hardly has five genuine bowlers. Ponting was successful because he had luxury of legends at his disposal.With Warne and Mc Grath as bowlers, Hayden,Symonds and Gilchrist as batsman, which captain wont succeed. With MSD , its other way around. He wins one tournament with ZAK and Munaf, other with Bhuvi and Jadeja.He keeps ,bats and captains a side that drives hopes of a billion fans.Most would crumble in such workload-physical and mental. His superhuman efforts are getting due accolades from media and fans world wide.Let him have his cherry for he deserves it.

Posted by Siddharth on (July 13, 2013, 18:29 GMT)

@GRVJPR that is a meaningless stat, for dhoni, the successful run chases that you are talking about have been chases where we have had meaningful contributions from other players as well, it has been a team effort for this team which has seen the glory in the last 10 years. No doubt Dhoni has played the most important role there being a very good caption and an amazing finisher. You are comparing apples and oranges here. Dhoni might be the best finisher we have but he still has a long way to become an ODI great. I am sure he will, if he continues playing like this for another few years. We tend to have very short memory when sports is involved and quickly jump the guns on current achievements while completely disregarding the past. Just give credit to the person where it is due. You don't have to belittle someone else to praise someone.

Posted by Praveen on (July 13, 2013, 18:29 GMT)

Bickering over whether Tendulkar or Dhoni is better is moot. Tendulkar has his own charm, he is afterall the master blaster with skills second to none.

However, if I were to pick Sachin or Dhoni I would pick Dhoni. Simply put - he has won India so many games and just delivers when needed. And thats what it counts - RESULT. For the same reason Yuvraj, Raina, Kohli are my favorites. They are a class apart who can turn the games over their heads and deliver a win in improbable situations.

Posted by GAURAV on (July 13, 2013, 17:41 GMT)

@Vishal_07 MS Dhoni averages 100.09 in successful run chases for India. Sachin 27.11. That shows who is better. MS Dhoni is the greatest finisher of all times. Just for a dust storm and an inning here and there won't match the repeated victories that MSD is presented to India. Sachin just collected 100's batting in powerplays on sharjah and india wickets. MSD bats at difficult number 7 position with no time to settle in.

Posted by Dummy4 on (July 13, 2013, 17:35 GMT)

@madubashini. but the fact is Ishant wasn't run out, isn't it. Yes, we all could sit and talk about what would have happened if x situation or Y situation had happened but at the end of the day Dhoni's strategy worked. I am always ammused when people put down almost every win of Dhoni as luck. Lady Luck shines on Dhoni no doubt about that but the man is a strategist. He thinks about all possible permutations like mathematicians do and that is why he seems to win more than lose unlike his predecessors who always looked at a match and thought in very simplistic terms about winning a match and unfortunately when the conditions of the match changes, they fold.

@Vishal, cricket is not all about skills. Tendulkar is probably the greatest batsman when you look at only skills but strategy wise Dhoni is far superior and a much better captain. I respect both cricketers but I admire both cricketers for different reasons.

Posted by Madu on (July 13, 2013, 15:05 GMT)

Dear author, I know that Dhoni played well to win the match and he is being showered with praises all over. But don't forget SL played well too esp. to defend such a low total and they almost had it if Ishant sharma's runouts were successful then Dhoni would have been stranded. He was lucky to escape from that and I wonder how the press treatment would have been had that happened?

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