Avesh Khan had to wait almost three years to get MS Dhoni's wicket. He had watched a simple chance put down off his bowling back in IPL 2018, but he got Dhoni to chop on when the Delhi Capitals took on the Chennai Super Kings in the second match of IPL 2021 on April 10.
"Three years ago, I had a chance to take Mahi bhai's wicket, but somebody had dropped the catch," Khan told the Delhi Capitals media team. "But now my dream of taking Mahi bhai's wicket is fulfilled, so I am very happy about it. Since he has not played competitive matches for some time, we had planned to put pressure on him and because of that pressure I could take his wicket."
Playing for the Delhi Daredevils in 2018, as the Capitals were called then, Khan had come on to bowl the 19th over against the Super Kings with Dhoni batting on 31 off 14. Then, Dhoni's mistimed pull spilt out of Colin Munro's hands on the first ball. Dhoni ended with 51 not out off 22 as the Super Kings beat the Daredevils by 13 runs in a high-scoring match.
Khan didn't bowl to Dhoni in the return fixture in 2018, but did bowl to him last year, conceding nine runs in five balls, including two fours.
In 2021, Khan was bowling the 16th over, and Dhoni lasted only two balls, walking back for a duck, in his first competitive match since IPL 2020. This time, the Capitals reversed the result from 2018 in another high-scoring game, sealing victory by seven wickets. Khan returned an excellent 2 for 23 in four overs, having taken Faf du Plessis' wicket in the game's second over earlier. Khan's effort in a game where the Capitals hunted down a target of 189 in 18.4 overs meant he was the best bowler as per ESPNcricinfo's Smart Stats, returning a hefty 94.24 points, almost double that of next-best Chris Woakes, who had 49.97.
"I was quite happy with my performance in our first match, and I am even more happy because the team has won," Khan said. "I put the team in a good position with the wickets of Mahi bhai and Faf du Plessis. After winning the first match, everyone's confidence goes up.
"My diet plan changes on a day-to-day basis, depending on my gym and training sessions and rest days. Improving my fitness has helped me a lot. I am feeling light, and I feel great when I run"Avesh Khan
"Rishabh (Pant, the Capitals' captain) backed me and gave me the second over of the match and I took a wicket in that over itself. A wicket in the initial part of a fast bowler's spell is really good for his rhythm. du Plessis is a good batsman and if he continued to play, then he would have made things difficult for us."
Khan, who has been a stellar performer in domestic cricket for Madhya Pradesh, also revealed he had put in considerable work before IPL 2021, including hiring a personal dietician and losing weight to improve his fitness.
"I have reduced my weight by five kgs," he said. "I have hired a personal dietician and I plan my diet according to the dietician's directions. My diet plan changes on a day-to-day basis, depending on my gym and training sessions and rest days. Improving my fitness has helped me a lot. I am feeling light, and I feel great when I run. I had to sacrifice some of my favourite dishes for 20-25 days, but that has helped me to stay on track for achieving some of my personal goals."
Khan was a somewhat surprise inclusion in the Capitals' first XI for their opening game of IPL 2021, with the team leaving the likes of Umesh Yadav on the bench. The competition for places will only hot up when Ishant Sharma - also in the squad - recovers from a niggle that kept him out in the first game. With Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje having sealed two fast-bowling spots, there is likely to be room for only one more Indian pacer in the XI, but Khan welcomed the opportunity to be part of a high-class pace attack.
"I think we have the best fast bowling line-up in the tournament," Khan said. "Kagiso Rabada won the Purple Cap last season, Anrich Nortje bowled the fastest ball in IPL history last season, Ishant Sharma is an experienced bowler, and Umesh Yadav has been bowling well in the nets as well. There's good competition among the fast bowlers in our team."
Saurabh Somani is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo