India's Mahendra Singh Dhoni(AP)
India's Mahendra Singh Dhoni(AP)

World Cup 2019: After chase fades, we need to talk about MS Dhoni

MS Dhoni’s diehard fans flooded social media platforms on their hero’s behalf to explain his process: the loss was guaranteed by then, they said, so he was simply in damage-control mode, fortifying India’s net run-rate
By Aditya Iyer (Chief Cricket Writer) | Hindustan Times, Birmingham
UPDATED ON JUL 02, 2019 12:49 PM IST

MS Dhoni always walks in to bat amid a roar of approval reserved for South American revolutionaries. Maybe the fans in the stands remember the young, swashbuckling Dhoni—him of the golden-mane fame, who eventually trimmed his hair but not his reputation to finish cricket matches on his blade. Or, maybe the fans have accepted who Dhoni the batsman has become over the last few seasons—the pragmatic accumulator of choppy runs; gritty and granular runs akin to the white five-o’clock shadow on his chin.

Sachin Tendulkar got, and Virat Kohli continues to receive, great welcomes too. But with Dhoni the reception en route to the crease is different; the cheer is less a welcome and more a celebration.

On Sunday, the terraces of Edgbaston too went bananas when Dhoni made his way out to the middle and Dhoni did his best to ignore it. Long strides took him faster towards the pitch, a thumb wiped a bead of sweat from his eyebrow and then he punched Hardik Pandya’s waiting fist.

ALSO READ: Bumrah on verge of massive record as India face Bangladesh

Well left?

At this point, India needed 112 runs from 65 balls. But Dhoni would only get strike with 104 runs needed off 61 deliveries; basically, a ball before the start of the death overs, a period of play once synonymous with Dhoni’s excellence.

That ball, bowled by Liam Plunkett, was a touch short of length and outside Dhoni’s off-stump. And he shouldered arms, bat stationed above his helmet, and let the ball sail by. It was a sign of things to come.

From the last 10 overs, India needed 104 runs—a fairly regular day in the IPL offices of Dhoni and Pandya, franchise-cricket legends with six titles and 11 finals between them. Pandya swung his bat this way and that and was out mid-way through the death for a 33-ball 45, with a strike rate of 136.36. Dhoni, on the other hand, stayed unbeaten with a score eerily similar to Pandya’s—31 balls, 42 runs, and a strike-rate of 135.48. Yet, it was widely felt all around Edgbaston—in the press box and in the stands—that something was terribly off with Dhoni’s approach.

Intent or lack of it

It is hard to put a finger on that ‘something’, perhaps his intent or lack of.

Dhoni’s diehard fans flooded social media platforms on their hero’s behalf to explain his process: the loss was guaranteed by then, they said, so he was simply in damage-control mode, fortifying India’s net run-rate. But there weren’t too many of these guys up and about at the ground. For, Edgbaston began draining out during the 47th over, when India needed a very plausible 62 runs from 24 balls, given that they still had five wickets in hand, and Dhoni and his CSK teammate Kedar Jadhav worked five singles from six Jofra Archer balls.

One of those singles, stabbed through point by Dhoni’s soft wrists, caused former captains Sourav Ganguly and Nasser Hussain to shake their heads in the commentary box.

ALSO READ: India likely XI vs Bangladesh: Kuldeep might be axed, more changes expected

Hard to explain

“I don’t have an explanation for this,” said Ganguly, repeating those words like a mantra. “Surely the India fans here would want to see Dhoni give it a go,” added Hussain even as the camera panned on a stream of blue exiting the stadium. “Look at them, they’re off. They’ve paid good money; World Cup game; top two sides; give it a go!”

He didn’t.

Dhoni’s bat remained gentle and India fell short of England’s total by 31 runs. Make no mistake, India did not lose because of Dhoni. But India could have won because of him. And that was perhaps what the fans were upset about—the complete and total shutter-down approach of his when India’s position on the points table (and even their position in the game) didn’t call for the stonewalling that was on display.

Touchy subject

Over the last few years, questions on Dhoni’s batting role has remained a touchy subject in press conferences, and on Sunday batting coach Sanjay Bangar got rather itchy when the talk became about the man in India’s No.7 jersey.

“I’m surprised that this question continues to come up every now and then,” said Bangar. “He’s doing the job for the team and overall we’re very happy with the intent he’s batting with.”

Bangar went on to list Dhoni’s best-ofs at this World Cup—the 74-run stand with centurion Rohit Sharma against South Africa, the quickfire 27 against Australia and the unbeaten 56 on a difficult wicket against West Indies, before adding: “Five out of seven games he has done the job for the team.”

Which is precisely the point Dhoni’s critics are making as well—in a team where the top-order is firing all the time, Dhoni, quite easily the most experienced batsman in India’s wafer-thin middle-order, simply cannot afford to have an off-day and smudge all the good work.

A day after India’s final group game against Sri Lanka, Dhoni will turn 38, the same age Tendulkar was when Dhoni led him to a World Cup trophy.

Back then in 2011, Tendulkar managed to put a hold on time and play with the same fluidity in his sixth World Cup as he had in his first. Dhoni is in his fourth edition, which perhaps is his final one. If he too can turn the clock back, the fans in the stands will not only erupt when he walks into the field, but also when he exits at the end of his innings.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close
Virat Kohli and Joe Root at the toss. (BCCI)
Virat Kohli and Joe Root at the toss. (BCCI)

India vs England 4th Test: All the changes in Playing XIs of both teams

By hindustantimes.com, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 09:34 AM IST
  • India vs England: India and England made a total of three changes for the fourth Test of the series.
Close
Kieron Pollard ensured that Akila Dananjaya's happiness was short-lived. (ICC)
Kieron Pollard ensured that Akila Dananjaya's happiness was short-lived. (ICC)

Twitter explodes after Pollard's 6 sixes in an over off hat-trick man Dananjaya

By hindustantimes.com, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAR 04, 2021 08:55 AM IST
  • Pollard's efforts were recognized well by the cricket fraternity with fans, former cricketers and his IPL franchise Mumbai Indians tweeting in praise of the West Indies all-rounder.
Close
India vs England 4th Test Live Cricket Score.(REUTERS)
India vs England 4th Test Live Cricket Score.(REUTERS)

Ind vs Eng Live Score, 4th Test, Day 1: England win toss, elect to bat first

By hindustantimes.com, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAR 04, 2021 09:33 AM IST
  • India vs England Live Cricket Score: Joe Root has won the toss and England elected to bat first. India will look to secure its place in the World Test Championship final with a win or draw against the visitors in the fourth Test. Follow all the updates from IND vs ENG fourth Test here.
Gautam Gambhir reckons R Ashwin's spell to Steve Smith stands out as the best he's seen in his life. (Getty Images)
Gautam Gambhir reckons R Ashwin's spell to Steve Smith stands out as the best he's seen in his life. (Getty Images)

'Pinnacle of off-spin bowling': Gambhir calls Ashwin's spell the best he's seen

By hindustantimes.com, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON MAR 04, 2021 08:17 AM IST
  • One particular spell of R Ashwin is the best Gautam Gambhir has seen any spinner bowl in his life.
Close
Kieron Pollard celebrates after hitting six sixes,(Screengrab)
Kieron Pollard celebrates after hitting six sixes,(Screengrab)

Pollard becomes 2nd player after Yuvraj to hit 6 sixes in an over in T20Is-WATCH

UPDATED ON MAR 04, 2021 08:26 AM IST
  • The West Indies won the match by four wickets with 41 balls in hand, finishing with 134-6.
Close
England's captain Joe Root reacts during a training session ahead of the fourth test cricket match between India and England at Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad.(AP)
England's captain Joe Root reacts during a training session ahead of the fourth test cricket match between India and England at Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad.(AP)

‘He has exploited surfaces really well’: Root reveals game plan to tackle Axar

By hindustantimes.com, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAR 04, 2021 07:41 AM IST
  • Axar has been experiencing a memorable series so far as he has recorded 18 wickets from two matches.
Close
India's Axar Patel bowls during the 3rd day of the 2nd test match against England at MA Chidambaram Stadium, in Chennai.((ANI Photo/BCCI Twitter))
India's Axar Patel bowls during the 3rd day of the 2nd test match against England at MA Chidambaram Stadium, in Chennai.((ANI Photo/BCCI Twitter))

Axar Patel reveals why Rishabh Pant calls him 'Wasim bhai'

UPDATED ON MAR 04, 2021 07:28 AM IST
  • Axar became the first bowler to claim more than 10 wickets in a pink-ball Test and most of his 11 wickets came from the arm-ball that goes straight on with the angle to the right-hander.
Close
Pitch area is seen covered ahead of the fourth test cricket match between India and England at Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad.(AP)
Pitch area is seen covered ahead of the fourth test cricket match between India and England at Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad.(AP)

'We are giving Vaughan too much space in the media': Former India cricketer

UPDATED ON MAR 04, 2021 09:24 AM IST
  • Ahead of the fourth Test, former Indian cricketer, Deep Dasgupta has responded strongly to all the criticisms from the former English players.
Close
Pakistan Cricket Board(Twitter)
Pakistan Cricket Board(Twitter)

PSL 2021: PCB to offer players and officials COVID-19 vaccine shots

ANI, Karachi
UPDATED ON MAR 03, 2021 11:15 PM IST
PCB said the vaccine doses will be administered on Thursday and will be offered to all those inside the bio-secure bubble.
Close
Former India cricket captain Bishan Singh Bedi(HT Photo)
Former India cricket captain Bishan Singh Bedi(HT Photo)

Spin legend Bedi recovering well after surgery to remove blood clot in brain

PTI, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON MAR 03, 2021 10:47 PM IST
The 74-year-old former India captain had undergone a bypass surgery at the hospital last month after he complained of heart problems.
Close
Harmanpreet Kaur: File photo(PTI)
Harmanpreet Kaur: File photo(PTI)

Indian women train after a year ahead of SA series

By Sharad Deep, Lucknow
PUBLISHED ON MAR 03, 2021 09:50 PM IST
India women’s team last played a game in March 2020, in the final of the ICC World T20 against hosts Australia.
Close
England skipper Joe Root inspects the pitch ahead of the 4th Test against India(PTI)
England skipper Joe Root inspects the pitch ahead of the 4th Test against India(PTI)

‘Important that we learn all the lessons from last two Tests’: Root

By hindustantimes.com, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON MAR 03, 2021 08:21 PM IST
During the pre-match virtual press conference on Wednesday, Root stated that it’s better to learn lessons from the last two games and come back strong.
Close
Michael Vaughan posted a video on Instqagram trolling the Ahmedabad pitch(Screengrab from Vaughan's video on Instagram)
Michael Vaughan posted a video on Instqagram trolling the Ahmedabad pitch(Screengrab from Vaughan's video on Instagram)

Vaughan takes another dig at Ahmedabad pitch in a fresh Instagram video

UPDATED ON MAR 04, 2021 07:46 AM IST
In the Instagram video which Michael Vaughan captioned: “The much-anticipated pitch report for the 4th Test,” he left no stones unturned in trolling the Ahmedabad pitch for the India vs England Test.
Close
IND vs ENG 4th Test Live Streaming(PTI)
IND vs ENG 4th Test Live Streaming(PTI)

IND vs ENG 4th Test Live Streaming: When & where to watch Live on TV & Online

By hindustantimes.com, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON MAR 03, 2021 07:24 PM IST
IND vs ENG 4th Test Live Streaming: All you need to know about live streaming details on Hotstar, match timings, venue for India vs England 4th Test Match.
Close
Cricket - Third T20 International - England v Pakistan - Emirates Old Trafford, Manchester, Britain - September 1, 2020 England's Tom Banton Mike Hewitt/Pool via REUTERS(REUTERS)
Cricket - Third T20 International - England v Pakistan - Emirates Old Trafford, Manchester, Britain - September 1, 2020 England's Tom Banton Mike Hewitt/Pool via REUTERS(REUTERS)

Tom Banton in isolation after positive Covid-19 test

ANI
PUBLISHED ON MAR 03, 2021 06:53 PM IST
Banton revealed on Wednesday that he tested positive for coronavirus on Tuesday and is now in isolation. The English cricketer, who plays for Quetta Gladiators in PSL, is feeling "OK" and thanked his fans for the support.
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP