One of the best finishers in limited overs cricket, MS Dhoni is one player who has taken up the finishing duties on numerous occasions for India. While fans have often bitten away nails in tension, Dhoni has quite often taken India across the like with zen-like calmness.
Without a shadow of a doubt, Mahendra Singh Dhoni will go down as one of the greatest finishers in limited overs cricket. The ex-Indian skipper’s ability to take the match deep and his ability to back his instincts in crunch situations has won him a legion of fans across the world.
But, on the 10th of July 2019, in the semi-final of the 2019 World Cup against New Zealand, Dhoni slipped. At the age of 38, he sprinted up and down the pitch that converted ones into twos and took the match deep, and along with Ravindra Jadeja, stitched an important partnership that kept India afloat in the chase.
However, India fell short by 18 runs and one main question that popped up right at the end of the encounter was - Should Dhoni be blamed for India’s loss?
Additionally, was it fair to single out a man who stitched together a counter attacking partnership of 116 runs for the 7th wicket along with Ravindra Jadeja?
Here, an analysis calls for numbers to come to the fore. Rohit Sharma was in surreal form throughout the tournament, with the opener amassing five hundreds in eight games. However, on the big day, he fell for a solitary run. Then, skipper Kohli too departed, with just one run to his credit. KL Rahul soon followed, and India were reeling at 6/3.
Things became worse at 24/4, after Karthik scratched around and fell for just 6 runs after consuming 25 balls.
Hardik Pandya scored 32 of 62 balls, at a strike rate of 51.61. When Dhoni came to the middle, the equation was 148 runs required off 19.3 overs. While Jadeja going after the bowling, Dhoni gave him excellent support by holding one end up which handed Jadeja the license to go for the kill.
As the association started to build, India slowly started to find their way back in the chase. New Zealand were slowly starting to feel the heat, and Jadeja and Dhoni were steadily getting India closer to the finish line. In fact, even the staunchest Indian cricket fan would not have thought that India would come this close.
However, against the run of play, Jadeja fell. When he departed, the equation needed was 32 runs off the last 13 balls.
Dhoni started the next over in style, with a fierce square cut that sailed over the head of the cover fieldier for a six . Yet, with Bhuvneshwar Kumar at the other end, Dhoni either had to score a boundary, or take two runs and keep the strike.
In the next ball, Dhoni tucked the ball into the leg side and as he charged back to the striker's end to collect a second run, Martin Guptill's bullet throw his the sticks directly as the throw caught the veteran just inches short of his crease.
Unfortunately for Dhoni, that was the end of his knock and as he put his head down and walked away to an applause from those in attendance, discussions started on whether he took it too far in the end.
In order to address that issue, Dhoni’s innings needs to be put in some context. Rishabh Pant scored 32 runs off 56 balls at a strike rate of 57.14. Hardik Pandya scored 32 off 62 balls, at a strike rate of 51.61. Dinesh Karthik had a strike rate of just 24.00, and scored just 6 runs.
Dhoni’s strike rate, on the other hand, was 69.44, the second best after Ravindra Jadeja. Hence, certainly, the question re-arises, are we right in blaming Dhoni for the loss?
Probably not. Here is a man who has given his best for Indian cricket for the last 15 years. Here is a man who is one of the most successful Indian captains ever. This was a match in which no one in the top order fired, and it was Dhoni-Jadeja partnership that brought India back in the game.
Certainly, Dhoni had a big hand to play in bringing India close to getting across the line, but unfortunately, he could not apply the final touches.
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