Rajasthan Royals batsman Jos Buttler believes Chennai Super Kings captain MS Dhoni's decision to step onto the field to protest an umpiring call was "probably not" the right thing to do in the last over of their match on Thursday night. The incident took place with Super Kings needing eight runs off three balls. Ben Stokes bowled a waist-high full toss to Mitchell Santner, and even though umpire Ulhas Gandhe had signalled a no-ball immediately, square-leg umpire Bruce Oxenford later shook his head to overturn the original decision.
That led to lengthy discussions mainly between Santner's partner Ravindra Jadeja and the umpires before Dhoni, who had been dismissed off the previous ball, walked out to join them. Dhoni was later fined 50% of his match fees for a Code of Conduct breach.
"I'm not sure if that's the right thing to do or not," Buttler said at the post-match press conference of Dhoni's decision to walk out on the field. "Obviously the tensions are running high in the IPL and every run counts. Yeah, it was a big moment in the game, but whether stepping onto the pitch is quite right? No, probably not.
"Obviously, it's a bit controversial. The umpires came to a decision but I was at the boundary so I wasn't quite sure what was going on."
Super Kings head coach Stephen Fleming later said that Dhoni took the field only to get clarity since there was confusion about the no-ball decision. He did not say if it was the right thing to do or not.
"What wasn't right was the confusion around the decision. It's above my paygrade to really get further than that," Fleming said.
"My understanding and discussing it with the captain was we saw a no-ball called, and then there was confusion. Our understanding was that the umpire at the bowler's end had called the no-ball and then there was confusion around whether it was a no-ball or not. MS was after some clarity and it didn't seem to be coming. So, he took the opportunity to go out and discuss it with the umpires. That's how I saw it and that's how I discussed it with him afterwards.
"He only just wanted clarity. The rights and wrongs will be discussed by everybody, including Mahi, I'm sure. But, I think, it'll be a discussion for the umpires afterwards and I am a watcher as you guys are, for now. But he was certainly fired up about the way the decision was handled and why it was overturned or if it was overturned. So, there was a lack of clarity, obviously, for him and he wanted to get it clarified at a key moment. It's unusual but he's usually pretty calculated. It'll be something he will be questioned about for sure, for a long time."
Royals had put on 151 for 7 and had Super Kings in trouble on 24 for 4 in the sixth over before Dhoni and Ambati Rayudu salvaged the chase with a 95-run stand. Both batsmen scored half-centuries and struck two fours and three sixes each to snatch the momentum from Royals.
"It is a tough one to take, getting into a winning position and not able to get over the line, the boys will be very disappointed," Buttler said. "But, I think that's been the story of our season so far. We have had some games that we should have won and closed out but for a few reasons, we have not been able to do it. We need to get it right, fast."
Royals are now only above winless Royal Challengers Bangalore on the points table with one win from six games. How do they get out of it?
"The way out is simple, we have to play better and longer," Buttler said. "We are just not putting those performances together. We have played well in stages but against quality oppositions and some of the best players in the world, if you can't do it for the whole 40 overs then it's tough to win the game."
Fleming, too, admitted the weaknesses in his side, even though they sit on top of the table with six wins from seven games. The two main areas he identified that needed their attention were their fielding and death bowling.
"There's a lot of areas of concern," Fleming said. "Our top order has been playing on a tough wicket in Chennai so we've got to make sure our confidence is high. Being 20-odd for 4, you're not going to win many games. And [another concern is] just finishing off an innings with our death bowling. It's hard and most teams are struggling. But if there are two areas we want to get better at, we're working hard on, is that and we have to work hard on our fielding. We've got a number of holes but we know where they are and we'll try and cover them up as much as we can."