On a day of frequent power cuts in Dhaka, Mahendra Singh Dhoni held on to the weakening current in his own spent, cramping body and saved India humiliation. The wicket-keeper’s heroic 91 not out — for once the adjective is deserved — brought India victory over Bangladesh in the opening match of the Grameenphone Series here on Thursday. Chasing 251 for victory in a match reduced to 47 overs due to rain, India won by five wickets and an over to spare.
Batting with a runner for more than half his innings — Yuvraj Singh did his leg work from the time he was on 39 — moving around gingerly and grimacing while executing his shots, Dhoni hauled India home after all seemed lost when Rahul Dravid departed.
As often happens in a great sporting contest, there were layers of irony beneath the main story. Dhoni’s ally this sapping afternoon was none other than Dinesh Karthik, his challenger for the wicket-keeper’s role in the Indian team. The two put on 107 off 108 balls for the sixth wicket. Marriage seems to have brought Karthik luck. He scored a vital 58 not out. Difficult as it is to say a kind word about openers Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir after their rash dismissals — a tiny bit of credit is due to them for the quick start they gave the Indian innings. The 56 runs that the first two wickets fetched India came in just seven overs. That meant the rest of the batsmen could afford to not worry about the run rate and focus only on the rescue operation.
Dhoni was promoted to No. 3 in the batting order as Dravid felt he could take advantage of the ball coming onto the bat, whatever little it did on this pitch. It was reassuring to see that unlike the openers, especially Sehwag, Dhoni chose sensibleness over risky if exciting batting. Partly it was to do with the position the team was in when he came in to bat. India were 56 for two, Gambhir and Sehwag were back in the pavilion, Bangladesh had regained impetus and the target, given the heat, was steep. He had to knuckle down and grind away.
However, a jolt was in store when Yuvraj Singh got out to Shahadat Hossain after scoring just one. It was a curious dismissal, triggered by a delivery that jumped, and was sealed by the manner in which Yuvraj dealt with it. He pulled his bottom hand away to feed a simple catch to Abdur Razzak at short cover.
Dravid joined Dhoni at the crease. They added 49 runs even as the famous left-arm spin troika of Razzak, Saqibul Hasan and Mohammad Rafique made run-getting difficult. Then a poor shot by Dravid resulted in him getting caught at point by Razzak off Saqibul. It was an uncharacteristic dismissal, since normally he has to be prised out, like a stubborn bit of lunch wedged between the teeth. It seemed over for India then. But Dhoni and Karthik saw the team through. Their courage and stamina were extraordinary. Their plan was not — all they did was play with common sense. Dravid observed this in the post-match press conference. Perhaps, it was his way of getting a message across to the team’s flashier practitioners of batting.
Earlier, having won the toss and elected to bat, Bangladesh made 250 for seven in 47 overs to establish themselves, at the halfway mark itself, as the favourites to win. Behind the good health of their innings was opener Javed Omar (80, 117b, 7x4, 2x6). The other opener, teenager Tamim Iqbal (45, 53b, 6x4), Saqibul Hasan (50, 67b, 2x4) and Mohammad Ashraful (29, 22b) were also important contributors. Poor fielding by India helped their cause.