News Analysis

The Dhoni plan that worked to Hope's advantage

Umesh Yadav had stuck to a full and straight plan for the first five balls of the final over, until the plan was changed for the last delivery

On a rollercoaster day where both team's fortunes nearly flipped upside down, many accepted the tie in the second India-West Indies ODI as a suitable result. But that moment at the end of West Indies' innings itself was made by a stalemate that wasn't apparent at first. MS Dhoni had made a plan, and Shai Hope was secretly hoping that it would be executed.
Umesh Yadav had 13 to defend in the last over, and he began by nailing a yorker to Hope first ball that could only be taken for a single. The batsman had made a hundred, but for nearly three overs, he hadn't hit a boundary as India persisted with a full-and-straight plan.
Umesh kept at this strategy even against Ashley Nurse, even though it resulted in four leg-byes deflected off his back leg. Nurse picked up two from the leg-stump yorker that followed, before reverse-scooping a full toss to third man.
With seven needed off two, Hope missed out on yet another full toss on the stumps, managing only to get two to deep midwicket. It was a decent over, with only five coming off the batsmen's own volition, and West Indies needing five to win off the last ball, or more practically, hitting a six off the final ball.
For the last ball, India decided to bring third man in and push point out to deep backward point. A sweeper cover was already out, as was long-off. It was a field set up for the full wide ball, and Kuldeep Yadav said at the post-match press conference that this had been Dhoni's idea.
"I'm too young to know," Kuldeep said when asked if he knew why a new plan was implemented. "I've played only 30 games and Mahi bhai has played 300 games. He's got more experience than me. It happens. He's more experienced than us. At that time he thought it and he did it."
The new plan, of course, didn't quite work out for India who were on the cusp of an impressive comeback win, with Hope carving a full, wide ball to the right of that freshly placed fielder at that deep backward point spot.
"I must say that I hoped he would bowl to the field," Hope said. "I knew a wide yorker was coming. I got enough bat on it to be able to get it to the boundary. I was trying to get more bat on it so it would go for a six and we would win. It didn't happen on the day. But one positive is we didn't lose the game."
Previously, Hope had said that he had been struggling to get bat on ball and that the plan at the end of the innings was to pick up twos and find the odd boundary through the big-hitting Nurse. But India had been clinical, conceding only 13 in three overs before the final over.

Varun Shetty is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo