Despite faltering, MS Dhoni remains the crowd favourite. It was evident even before the start of Thursday’s match between his Rising Pune Sunrisers and Delhi Daredevils when lads clad in the aesthetically insensitive Pune jersey bearing his name thronged the gates of the Ferozeshah Kotla.
It was only fitting that the India limited-overs skipper obliged them with something he is known for – the finishing touch, almost. The finish and the match itself lacked much drama and the absence of nail-biting stuff took some sheen off the game.
But Dhoni, whose team is languishing at the bottom, was far from clinical in his innings and that showed when he mistimed a few hits. The six off Mohammed Shami, it seemed, looked like triggering the spark in him. He tried one too many and an Imran Tahir delivery that was sent to the cow corner was acrobatically held by Sam Billings.
The knock, however, was good enough to see the team through. Ajinkya Rahane held firm to neatly anchor the chase, finishing on 63 not out as the visiting side sealed the game by seven wickets in the final over.
All’s well that ends well and Dhoni may have to thank Delhi Daredevils’s misfortune a lot for that. They were without skipper Zaheer Khan and three of their other key performers.
Delhi went in with four spinners, including the Rs 8.5 crore baby Pawan Negi, who looked more like a pie-thrower on the day.
Whether picking so many spinners was by design or forced due to lack of options, Daredevils were the butt of some caustic comments even though the spinners did well while the pacers, especially Shami, were unimpressive.
Pitch committee chairman Chetan Chauhan had called this dry surface a 180-run wicket and Delhi Daredevils’ 162, after being asked to bat first, was way below that.
A weak batting line-up, missing Quinton de Kock and Chris Morris, should have crumbled for far less.
But so poor have been the bowling resources at Dhoni’s disposal that they managed to reach that total. Pune’s lack of firepower in their bowling was evident from the pre-match drills.
With Ishant Sharma out of favour, there were only the has-beens for Dhoni to chose from. The Pune skipper went for Ashok Dinda and then didn’t seem certain on how to use his trumpcard, R Ashwin. Ashwin was brought in after the first six overs, seemingly a defensive ploy. And barring one flighted delivery in his first over that turned and troubled the batsman, everything else was negotiated with ease.
Maybe bringing him on against an inexperienced opening pair first up may have made sense. But with Dhoni, you never know what’s in store.