While we may have to wait for another biopic on him to know why he padded up to bat at No 4 on Sunday, few would question Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s decision.
The game was tilting towards New Zealand, as it would if the score is 41 for 2 while chasing 286, and Dhoni walked out, aware of how this was as much a make-or-break situation for him as it was for the Indian team.
And over the next couple of hours, two of India’s finest ODI batsmen, proudly and deservedly wearing the tag of best finishers in this format of the game, produced vintage and destructive class. Matching each other stroke for stroke, Dhoni and Virat Kohli set about dismantling any hope the Kiwis had, and by the time they finished, there weren’t too many at the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium not dancing to the beat of the dhol.
Virat (154 not out) and Manish Pandey (28) guided India home with seven wickets in hand. Virat, who along with captain Dhoni had scripted India’s victory, walked back to the dressing room with a big smile on his face. Understandable, as he had work to do after Dhoni fell at a crucial stage of the chase.
Virat, as is his wont, creamed boundaries in almost all perceivable angles, looking so very comfortable both on the front foot as well as back. Dhoni, on the other hand, was an anti-thesis of how he usually bats these days. Right from the first ball he faced and pulled towards square leg, Dhoni intimidated the Kiwi bowlers, hitting those powerful and big sixes and then cutting and pulling for boundaries.
He seemed to have left his recent game, of using nudges, back in the dressing room and soon the Kiwi skipper Kane Williamson knew their game was up.
While the Delhi ODI defeat may have actually served as a warning to India, the methodical manner in which they chased down the seemingly stiff target gave India double joy, an easy win in the end that also saw Dhoni back to his old, buccaneering ways.
And yes, we could all relive Dhoni’s famous match-winning knock at No 4 in the 2011 World Cup final. Also, Dhoni completed 195 sixes to break Sachin Tendulkar’s record of maximum sixes hit by an Indian in ODIs.
The 27,000-plus Mohali crowd went home happy in the end. Dhoni would probably want to carry this piece of turf with him wherever he plays. It was here that he scored his last ODI century three years ago, against Australia.
He had got to his first ODI fifty in a year --- the last was 92 not out against South Africa in October, 2015 --- and was disappointed not to get to his 10th century.
While he fell short by 20, the 91-ball 80 tonight helped him regain the mojo that seemed to have deserted him. As for Virat, the world’s best batsman in ODIs, century No 26 was business as usual. Happy to play second fiddle to Dhoni, Virat was monk-like in his concentration.
There is a significant stat which tells that Virat, who has been India’s back bone in recent years, has scored 21 of his 26 ODI centuries to help India win.
It was in a way the best ODI wicket in recent times at Mohali that added to the charm of this match. While the Kiwis began well, they lost wickets to spinners Amit Mishra and Kedar Jadhav, which saw the batting collapse between overs 30-40. Tottering at 199 for 8, all seemed lost for them before the ninth-wicket stand of 84 between James Neesham and Matt Henry.
In the end, that was dwarfed by the Indian skipper and his deputy. The two teams travel to Ranchi aware it is the home ground of Dhoni. If he stays in the same gear, you will hear chants of - Mahi maar raha hai once again.