Try and recall the last time you heard of a batsman hitting the winning runs in the final of a tournament in which he was ruled out due to injury. Can’t? That’s the magic of MS Dhoni.
He is unique, a one-man army. If he is fit, he will play. And if he plays, he wants to win. So even if the India middle order suddenly freezes, Dhoni will turn towards the tail-enders, tell them not to panic and leave the winning bit to him. “Give me the last over” is all that Dhoni would say to them. “In a game like this you need to play boring cricket,” said Dhoni after Thursday’s thrilling final win. “Even if you win in the 48th or 49th over it doesn’t really matter.”
Like in a thriller, Dhoni built up the suspense by refusing singles and keeping the crowd on tenterhooks as they watched Bhuvneshwar Kumar, R Vinay Kumar and Ishant Sharma keep out the Sri Lanka bowling led by Lasith Malinga. The asking rate began at just above four and crossed six but Dhoni didn’t flinch. He saved himself for the final over that required 15 runs, with a No 11 at the other end.
That Dhoni would do the impossible was predictable not from the way he went about smashing Shaminda Eranga in the last over, but the way Sri Lanka reacted after he was hit for a huge six off the second ball.
They got into a huddle with Eranga and tried to calm him. It only made him more nervous. Dhoni waited for Eranga to get back to his bowling mark and finished the match with a four and six off the next two balls.
But Dhoni is human too. There were moments, twice actually, when he was seen flailing his arms and giving Ishant Sharma a piece of his mind after the pacer had suddenly decided to take off for a non-existent single.
It’s easy to be carried away by Dhoni’s batting charisma. But like the 2011 World Cup final, Thursday’s win wouldn’t have happened without an opener staying put. Rohit Sharma’s knocks in the last two matches might not have been the most fluent but were definitely significant.
On a pitch that had a mind of its own, Rohit played each ball to its merit and held up one end.
Equally important was Bhuvneshwar who didn’t score a single run but guided India out of turmoil when Rangana Herath struck twice in two deliveries. It also made Dhoni’s life less uncomfortable. But then he knew he would win it anyway.