Mahendra Singh Dhoni loves to make flamboyant statements. This one was reserved but equally noteworthy. In his first appearance after declaring that stepping down from captaincy didn’t bother him in the least, Dhoni fought off cramps to play a combative innings that held the middle order and allowed India to reach their highest total in this series.
A 77-ball 69 is no trademark Dhoni blitz, but the hallmark of his innings, around which the rest of the batting flourished, was the intent to correct things that had gone wrong in the series. He again came at No 4 with Shikhar Dhawan at the other end, and continued with Ambati Rayudu. It seemed a replay of the second match, only this time India were not playing suicidal cricket. All courtesy the way Dhoni anchored the innings.
Dhoni came after Virat Kohli was bowled. He played out nine dot balls, giving Shakib a maiden in the process, before deciding he had settled down enough to start scoring. Dhoni came down the track and hit Nasir Hossain for a four, followed by a six over midwicket. Once he had struck Rubel Hossain for two boundaries in the 25th over, Dhoni looked in flow. Dhawan fell but Rayudu wasn’t playing reckless shots. With a lot to prove to his captain who has publicly backed him over Ajinkya Rahane, Rayudu got down to building a partnership with Dhoni.
It resulted in fewer boundaries but the duo tried to keep up the run rate with brisk running between the wickets. The batting powerplay, taken after the 32nd over, produced just 29 runs, but Dhoni seemed to be looking to stay till the end. India didn’t motor on but at least they didn’t crumble. It was during this phase that Dhoni, with humidity taking a toll, was seen feeling his right hamstring. However, he braved it to continue sprinting for runs.
The problem seemed to worsen after the 42nd over, when physio Nitin Patel was summoned. Once Suresh Raina started blasting bowlers, it gave Dhoni the cue to free his arms. He didn’t get a ton but by staying put, he ensured India didn’t waste their chance for some batting redemption.