All through his career, MS Dhoni has been a hard man to decipher. He has his own way of going about things and often ends up throwing conventional wisdom out of the window in the process. Even in the final phase of his career, when he has occasionally struggled for India, he is doing exactly that. How else can you explain the fact that the last two seasons have been his best ever in the Indian Premier League (IPL)?
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While Dhoni scored 455 runs in 16 matches at an average of 75.83 in Chennai Super Kings’ victorious campaign in 2018, he is perhaps on his way to bettering those numbers this season. In just nine matches, he has already racked up 314 runs at a staggering average of 104.66.
On Sunday, he also notched up his highest score in IPL with an unbeaten 84 from 48 balls against RCB in an innings that was laced with five fours and seven sixes. While the end result wasn’t what Dhoni would have wanted, the innings is likely to be etched in memory for the foreseeable future and should bode well for India during the ICC World Cup.
It seemed as though Dhoni had left himself too much to do at one stage, but his ‘calculator’ was working all along. Most impressively, even when they needed a seemingly improbable 36 from the last two overs, he had the gumption to refuse singles and back his own ability to hit the big shots rather than give strike to the new batsman in Dwayne Bravo.
Of course, there will be those who argue that he should have shown more faith in Bravo, but Dhoni always has a sound reasoning to back his decisions.
“Since I had played so many deliveries, I can afford to take that risk, because a lot of boundaries were needed. So yes, right now you can calculate and say we missed 2-3 runs which would have seen us through, but what you have to see is what if there were a few dot balls and whether we could have got those extra boundaries or not. The pitch was slightly spongy and the new batsmen found it difficult,” Dhoni said at the post-match presentation.
If Dhoni made an error in judgment on the night, it was only in failing to read Umesh’s slower ball off the final delivery and getting a decent enough connection. The fact that he didn’t do so was as much a surprise to the RCB camp as anyone else.
“We wanted Dhoni to hit through the off-side. So we decided to bowl a slower delivery outside the off-stump and he surprisingly missed it. I wasn’t expecting him to miss it,” said RCB’s Parthiv Patel, who managed to run out Shardul Thakur with a direct hit.
It ensured that Dhoni doesn’t go home a winner in this one, but that hardly counts in the bigger picture. The master finisher, against a good pace attack, showed that he is probably playing his best cricket in the last few years. CSK and Team India fans would hope it goes on for a couple of more months — till July 14 to be precise.