Leading a cricket team may not be rocket science but India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni proved it involves a bit of physics in Wednesday’s World Twenty20 heartstopper against Bangladesh.
With Bangladesh needing two runs to humble their ‘Big Brother’ off the final delivery from Hardik Pandya, Dhoni made a masterstroke tactical decision following another brain-storming session that marked the late stages of India’s defence of a below-par total in a contest crucial to their semi-final hopes.
Ideas flew in, mostly from paceman Ashish Nehra who had exhausted his quota but was eager to make sure the team benefits from his 17 years’ experience of international cricket.
Dhoni weighed his options before asking Pandya to bowl a back-of-the-length delivery having calculated how much time non-striker Mustafizur Rahman might take to complete a single to level the scores.
“We didn’t want to bowl a yorker, it had to be a back-of-the-length delivery. But how much back-of-the-length? That was the question,” the Indian captain explained after his team prevailed by the slimmest of margins.
“You don’t want to bowl a wide and by the time it travels to the keeper, the batsman has an opportunity to take one more run.”
“I think his (Pandya’s) execution of the last delivery was fantastic.”
With Pandya at the top of his mark, Dhoni resumed his place behind the stumps and removed his right glove to throw should there be a bye.
Pandya bowled a wide back-of-length delivery that beat Shuvagata Hom’s bat and reached Dhoni who sprinted more like a gazelle than a 34-year-old at the twilight of his career and, ball in palm, thrust his fist into the stumps to run out Mustafizur.
BUMRAH PEP TALK
An element of luck often clinches such close contests but it was probably his captaincy that sealed India’s win in the Group Two nail-biter.
Needing 17 runs off the last two overs with four wickets in hand and the well-established Mahmudullah and former captain Mushfiqur Rahim at the crease, Bangladesh stood on the verge of a famous win.
India’s senior bowlers Nehra and Ravichandran Ashwin had bowled out and Jasprit Bumrah was low on confidence, having dropped a catch and conceded 26 runs in his first three overs.
A pep talk from his captain and Bumrah sent down a tidy over which left Bangladesh needing 11 off the last six deliveries.
“I won’t like to share what I said but definitely it worked,” Dhoni said of his chat with the paceman.
Dhoni took almost an eternity to set his field for the final over and tinkered with it after almost every delivery, making sure the better athletes manned the fence.
“I knew that once 20th over started, you can take as much time as possible, you can’t get fined for it. I had the luxury of spending a bit of time,” he said.
Nine runs, however, came off the first three balls and put Bangladesh on the verge of victory before things went horribly wrong for them.
Mushfiqur and Mahmudullah fell to successive deliveries, trying to seal the win with big shots, before Dhoni out-sprinted Mustafizur as three wickets fell in the last three balls.