Mahendra Singh Dhoni was lauded for his coolness and his captaincy after India clung on for a one-run win over Bangladesh in the World Twenty20.
The criticism would have flowed had India lost in the last over, but instead the likes of former test captain Sunil Gavaskar were praising Dhoni for his composure in controlling the game.
“MS Dhoni knew what to do, his plans showed that he was at the top of his game. Also, the commitment of the players was there to see as they tried to get India out of a sticky situation,” Sunil Gavaskar said.
Dhoni picked allrounder Hardik Pandya to bowl the last over, with Bangladesh needing 11 runs on Wednesday to produce a huge upset win at the tournament which India is hosting.
At the World Twenty20, the man who is shouldering all the weight is India skipper MS Dhoni. He guided a young team to the inaugural WT20 tournament in South Africa.
This time, most former players have installed India as favorites. Although India are a win over Australia away from that semifinal spot, sluggish tracks have kept batsmen, except Virat Kohli, on tenterhooks. And this could well be Dhoni’s last major tournament.
But Dhoni knows how to win a World T20 as well as a World Cup at home, and blemishes don’t bother him. There is a new aggression, and impatience with media, but he is playing the Big Brother to his players to perfection.
On Wednesday night though, it was about his planning and razor sharp reflexes, after slowing the game down, getting the fielders in the right spot and spreading calm, especially among newcomers Jasprit Bumrah and Hardik Pandya.
Bumrah, impressive since making his debut in Australia, had had a bad day. He misfielded the first ball of the Bangladesh innings to concede a four, and then went for 16 runs in his second over. He also dropped a sitter from Tamim Iqbal off R Ashwin, whose precious four overs eventually netted only two wickets.
Dhoni got him to stay focused, and Bumrah responded by keeping things tight — he gave just 13 runs bowling the 17th and 19th overs, setting up the dramatic final over with Bangladesh left to get 11 for a win. Until then, it seemed India should have picked a third spinner. Pandya’s last over may not entirely compare with Joginder Sharma’s effort as it came in the 2007 WT20 final, but the choice was equally inspiring.
However, Dhoni has been his own man. He has insisted on personnel who can be slotted in for specific roles. Be it calling up veteran Ashish Nehra or youngsters Pandya and Bumrah, they all fit into his calculations.
The skipper himself finished it off in the end, another calculated sprint by the 34-year-old. Dhoni sprinting from metres out to run out Mustafizur Rahman last ball has made him a Superman. One funny image shows Usain Bolt winning a race only to see Dhoni ahead of the finish line effecting the run out!
But after getting within two runs of victory, Bangladesh lost three wickets on the last three deliveries and India took the points, maintaining its chances of reaching the semifinals. Mahmudullah (18) and Mushfiqur Rahman (11) had struck some useful blows but both holed out in the deep. Tail-ender Mustafizur Rahman was run out on the last delivery as Dhoni collected the ball and ran in to dismantle the stumps and restrict Bangladesh chasing 147 for the win to 145-9.
“We were just discussing what would be a good length to bowl,” Dhoni said, having told Pandya to pitch it short and worked out whether the batsmen will succeed in stealing a bye.
In situations like the last over of the Bangladesh game, it is about managing the confusion for Dhoni.
“In situations like this, it’s literally chaos. You’re trying to manage chaos. Having an open mind really helps because in situations like these, under pressure, you may have a tunnel vision and that’s where the point of view of others come in handy.”
After the triple strike off the last three balls, India can look forward to a better pitch in Mohali, where they play Australia on Sunday.
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