If someone could get inside MS Dhoni's head and figure out just how his mind works, he could become a very rich man.
Everyone interested in Indian cricket wants to know how Dhoni does what he does, and why. When the team is winning no-one digs too deep but now, as they crashed to their second defeat of the Super Eights, by 14 runs against West Indies, the questions for Dhoni will fly thick and fast. And they won’t all be polite.
The first enigmatic decision Dhoni made was choosing only two medium-pacers, putting the opposition in on a damp pitch and then gave the new ball to a spinner. As strategy, it just doesn’t add up, but Dhoni had done things his own way since being made captain, and the sustained success he has delivered has earned him the trust of fans.
India began well, conceding 26 off five overs, but Chris Gayle wasn't bogged down, just biding his time. The atmosphere was supercharged once Gayle began launching his long-range missiles. He was not wildly attacking, being picky about which ball to hit, and committed fully when attempting the shot. This left India under pressure, but never quite in danger of letting the West Indies run away with the game.
Gayle's one serious error was when, on 46, he top-edged Ashish Nehra just behind square on the leg. Dhoni was heading for a fuss-free collection but Yusuf Pathan thought the catch was his and charged headlong, colliding into his
Gayle made the let-off count, scoring in staccato bursts, punctuating periods of inactivity with clean hitting, though the regular fall of wickets at the other end meant that the scoring rate was kept down to manageable proportions. Gayle was run out two short of his century.
With 170, West Indies would have backed themselves to get past India, but equally the visitors would have been uplifted, as the target could well have been a stiffer one had the hosts managed their innings better.
That said, there was the Calypso version of chin music to deal with, and once more the top order was found wanting. If the strategy against the Aussies was to attack, the approach here was to wait and watch. The only drawback was that the batsmen did not back this method to work fully enough, and grew impatient when kept quiet for 2-3 balls.
Both openers fell to short balls, Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh gifted their wickets to spinners and Rohit Sharma was given out caught behind when an attempted scoop went off forearm.
A Dhoni miracle was the only thing that could bail India out, and the captain was well on his way, with 29 from 18, when a freak run-out, through Dwayne Bravo’s direct hit from long-on, ended the dream.