Top order got out to good deliveries: Dhoni
Sometimes, what a sportsman does on the field is not just a display of his sporting aptitude, it is also a window into his character. What MS Dhoni did with the bat in the first ODI against Pakistan was a perfect illustration of that.
Dhoni’s innings of 113 unbeaten runs mirrored the man’s character. He came in to bat at No.7 with India at 29 for 5 in the 10th over. He soaked up the pressure, weathered the storm, negotiated the swinging ball more effectively than his technically sounder top-order batsmen and made crease occupation his sole goal in a partnership with Suresh Raina.
For 78 balls, he curbed his instincts. He didn’t hit a single boundary. Then, when conditions shifted in his favour, he attacked. In the next 47 balls, he racked up 80 runs, with seven fours and three sixes. All the sprinting he did between the 22 yards under the Chennai sun, cramped him up. But he pushed himself, harder, each time, till the end, and took India to a once unthinkable 227.
The innings defined MS Dhoni, the man – patient, fearless, sensible, mentally unbreakable for the first 78 balls and powerful, aggressive, energetic, fighting for the next 47.
In the end, India lost and one of the greatest ODI innings ended in a losing cause. Dhoni spoke about the knock just the way he played it – honestly and selflessly.
“It’s not like I have plenty of 100s to choose from. So, all of them are very special for me,” he said after receiving the Man of the Match award. “
“However, you don’t want an opportunity to score a 100 batting at No.7 because you want your top order to perform,” he added, proving once again that he doesn’t play cricket for numbers.
As he approached the end of the innings, Dhoni’s body began to rebel under testing conditions. But after fighting the heat for 40 overs, he came back to keep wicket.
“It was very humid and sunny. I was pretty drained but the good thing is that I didn’t do any damage by pulling any muscle. It was only cramps and after hydrating in the break between the innings I was again able to keep wickets for 50 overs,” Dhoni said, not mentioning that he had the team’s medical team out in the second innings to check his body temperature. In all probability, the man played with fever, but he is not one to seek sympathies.
What Dhoni did clarify though, is that his knock should not be used to vilify his out of sorts top-order batsmen. “You cannot question the talent of our top order because they all got out to good deliveries.
“When Raina and I were batting, the odd ball was still doing a bit but the movement of the ball was nothing compared to the first seven or eight overs,” the Indian captain said while defending his batsmen.
With the team not in best of forms and losing more matches than they ever have under his leadership, Dhoni has been the favourite darting target for the experts and fans alike.
A lesser man would have sulked, whined and gone on the defensive facing the kind of criticism that Dhoni has over the last year. But this man is different. His way of looking at things is unique. Where others might cry foul, he takes it all on the chin. MS Dhoni doesn’t do self pity.
“I accept whatever is thrown my way. I feel good that I am the punching bag because that means there’s less pressure on the team,” he said.
“You need to have a few punching bags in the side. Sachin [Tendulkar] has been there for quite some time. Everyone talks about him and he takes all the tension. I don’t think everyone gets a chance to be the punching bag. I’m happy that I can take a bit of tension off my teammates’ shoulders,” Dhoni added.
India might be 0-1 down in the series. But they have, time and again, showed they can come back with a bang. They did it by drawing the preceding T20I series. And the skipper sees no reason why they cannot do it again.
For that to happen, Dhoni believes that besides taking their game several notches higher, the team’s composition will have to undergo a bit of alteration.
“We’ll have to do really well in the next game to stay alive in the series going into the last match. We’ll also have to make a few changes in the side to suit the new rules.
“It’s crucial to find the right balance. You need to have five good bowlers as well as depth in batting. We’ll have to review everything. We need to strengthen our bowling but at the same time not lose out on a batsman. So, batsmen who can bowl will have to take their bowling very seriously,” demanded the captain.
If his men take a leaf out of Dhoni’s page, the course of the series will change. And Team India will greet the new year with a series win against Pakistan.