Modest Dhoni downplays his double ton
Sachin Tendulkar has played a few memorable knocks at the MA Chidambaram Stadium. The locals claim that Chennai is Tendulkar’s cricketing home. But now the Little Master has a stiff competition with MS Dhoni as the city’s favourite adopted son.
Thanks to his 224-run knock – his first double-century and the highest Test score by an Indian captain – the Chennai Super Kings captain won the hearts of the city’s habitants all over again. Plus, India’s eight-wicket win was the perfect icing on the cake.
After the match, Dhoni was as calm as ever, trying his best to downplay his brilliant effort with the bat. When asked if he ever dreamt of scoring a Test double-ton, the Indian captain said, “I never dreamt of playing for India”.
While stating that this knock was a special one, Dhoni kept his reaction very subdued when asked to rate it among all the centuries he has scored at Test level. “I don’t have many big knocks in Test cricket, which makes it easy and at the same time difficult to choose the best,” he said.
However, he singled out his unbeaten 76 at the Lord’s, which helped India draw the Test and win the series 1-0 in 2007, as one of his more special innings.
“I thought the 70-odd I scored at Lord’s in 2007 was very special because it helped us win the series. It’s not the number of runs, but the impact of the innings on the match or the series that makes it special,” the Indian captain said.
This knock was a perfect illustration of Dhoni’s abilities to mess with bowlers’ plans and push them on the back foot with his shot-making. He scored his 224 runs in 265 balls at strike-are of 84. His previous Test knock was a sedate 99 (off 246 balls) in Nagpur against England in a match-saving effort.
The sheer contrast in the nature of Dhoni’s two consecutive Test innings is a testament to his mental strength to adjust his game to suit the team’s needs. “The demand was very different in Nagpur and here,” he said.
“This Test was evenly poised when I walked out to bat and Nathan [Lyon] was bowling well. It was important to play a few big shots in order to get rid of that extra close-in catching fielder, so that if you misread a flighted delivery and go back to a ball that’s pitched up, you don’t have that one extra fielder to take the inside edge or bat-pad. The plan worked well,” Dhoni stated.
The Indian skipper was quizzed about his choice of bowling combination for the Test in which Pragyan Ojha was conspicuous by his absence. While explaining that he played two off-spinners in R Ashwin and Harbhajan Singh due to the heavy presence of left-handed batsmen in the Australian line-up, Dhoni also hinted that he sees Ravindra Jadeja as a long-term Test prospect for India.
“They have a lot of left-handers in their side and it’s always difficult to play the ball that spins away from you. That was one reason why we chose to go with two off-spinners. We still had someone like Jadeja who can bowl long spells without giving away too many runs.
“For the three Tests in this series, this looks like a settled line-up. However, Jadeja has to improve slightly on his batting. He has the talent to get it going. Till he gets used to Test cricket, I will continue to bat at No.6. Once he starts performing according to the talent he has, we will rethink my batting position,” Dhoni said.
Despite the win, India’s opening concerns were highlighted once again with both Virender Sehwag and Murali Vijay failing to go past 20 runs in either innings of the Test. Dhoni defended his openers and said that they will retain their place in the team for the second Test, in Hyderabad.
“You need to give them a fair amount of time. Vijay played this game; let’s continue with him and give him the comfort of feeling that he’s wanted in the team.
For Sehwag, when he scores runs, he looks fantastic, but when he gets out, his shots are questioned. In this match, he was unfortunate in the first innings when he middled the ball and it came back to hit the stumps. In the second innings, there wasn’t much pace in the wicket for him to play freely. Let’s give him some more time as he can change the game singlehandedly,” Dhoni said.
The skipper had a few words of praise for his spinners, who accounted for all 20 Australian wickets. He was particularly impressed with R Ashwin, who snapped up 12 of those wickets.
“Ashwin bowled really well. We all need to respect the fact that his strength is the variation he’s got. When he goes through a lean period, people say that he needs to concentrate on bowling his off-spin. But looking from his point of view, it gets difficult for him because he knows he can bowl the variations. When he didn’t do well, it was because he wasn’t consistent with his length,” Dhoni said while referring to the England series.
Regarding Harbhajan, Dhoni said, “Bhajji was a bit tentative in the first innings, but came back strongly in the second and was very consistent with his length.”