India vs New Zealand, semi-final World Cup 2019: MS Dhoni – Out paced not out thought
Back in 2004, MS Dhoni’s career started with a run out, he worked on it, he ran, he sprinted, he outpaced the oppositions, and here in 2019, with the mind having things under control, that one last inch defied him.
Ravindra Jadeja ran down the track, thwacked Mitchell Santner, who was keeping a tight leash over the Indian batting, over deep mid-wicket. He puffed his chests, thumped gloves with Dhoni and saw off the over. MS Dhoni was now on strike, lofted his arms, adjusted the gloves and bunted a straight ball back to Jimmy Neesham. Grunts in the crowd, shuffles in the dressing room, just a simple routine for Dhoni.
It was a game of margins as Kohli said at the end and the pitch was a funny one. Sluggish, slow, parched on day 1, seaming, still slow, on day 2. It was a game when the Indian top order was sliced open, Dinesh Karthik could not survive the burst and the experience was back in the bunker. It was a game when two ‘mavericks’ in Rishabh Pant and Hardik Pandya did the dirty job of building the innings and it was an innings when Rishabh Pant went from delight to despair in a matter of minutes and Hardik after all the restraint slogged his way to the dressing room. In a game of margins, India had ceded acres.
And so out walked Dhoni – questions ranging from intent, to strike-rate, to finishing prowess all echoing somewhere far away from the man himself and he started the sojourn. Now New Zealand are a fine bowling unit, they kept wheeling away, Dhoni allowed them to do exactly that. Not for Ravindra Jadeja, his bits and pieces were strewn all over the game – with the ball, in the field and in now with the bat.
Dhoni was still content, he lofted his arms, shuffled the gloves and kept bunting the ball for dots, or shoving them away for singles. There was a smirk when Jadeja tried to hustle between the wickets, a wink when he played out dots, but there was no dearth of belief. Jadeja galloped along, four sixes, four fours, a sword celebration and plenty of intensity. India started inching back, yet, Dhoni kept chipping away. Clinging at singles, looking for doubles, and constant chatter. It was quintessential Dhoni, the run rate kept escalating, Dhoni kept jostling.
72 runs off 48 balls, Williamson had to get three overs done between Jimmy Neesham and Colin de Grandhomme and after the pressure exerted by Boult, Henry and Ferguson, this was the escape Dhoni was sighting. 72 runs in 48 balls, Jadeja motoring along, Dhoni ticking along, bowlers vs the batsmen, mind vs muscle, Dhoni vs whatever – let’s go.
Jadeja perished, a miscue towards mid-off, had Dhoni’s stonewalling mounted the pressure on him or was this the tactic? Take a guess, I shall do that too and we will then tally. Dhoni retained strike for the final two overs, it was nervy, it was edgy, it was in Dhoni’s ally, right in his feels.
48.1 – Ferguson runs in, deep mid-wicket, deep square-leg, long on and a deep point. The ball is short, wide, Dhoni rises and with that twirl of the bat smacks it over point. Just over point, all the way for six. He felt it, the dressing room felt it, the crowd felt it. Kiwis felt it. It was in Dhoni’s ally. The margins were drifting towards him. That mind, under that cranium ticking frantically.
A dot followed and then Ferguson ran up, banged the ball in short angled in, aimed for the body – as per the field. It bounced more than anticipated, tucked Dhoni for room, he got it towards the square leg circle. A sprint followed, the Dhoni sprint, the sprint of an athlete, the athlete who still outpaces Hardik in training. Guptill sprinted too, from the boundary, another athlete, a batsman who has simply not arrived this World Cup, a fielder not thinking about it. He swooped on the ball, one-handed pick up and threw the stumps down. The tension could have been cut with a knife at Old Trafford and athlete Dhoni was outpaced, inches short of the crease. In a game of margins, India had conceded the decisive inch.
Wringing his hands, he trudged off, head bowed, with a realm of infinite questions ranging around, Dhoni crossed the boundary ropes. He was staring at something, perhaps, he was staring at absolutely nothing, but despite the mind having it all under control, the pace defied him. MS Dhoni was out paced, well, was he out thought.
“Whatever it takes to finish things, finish. You will learn more from a glorious failure than you ever will from something you never finished.”
The chase was left incomplete as Dhoni walked off, who will now learn from this incomplete finish? Back in 2004, his career started with a run out, he worked on it, he ran, he sprinted, he outpaced the oppositions, and here in 2019, with the mind having things under control, that one last inch defied him. Well, as Dhoni says, it is all in the process, you only learn!
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