ICC Cricket World Cup 2019: For once, MS Dhoni doesn’t finish off in in inimitable way

Omkar Paranjape
Friday, 12 July 2019

Without a shadow of a doubt, when he decides to call it quits, Mahendra Singh Dhoni will go down as one of the greatest finishers in limited-overs cricket.

BIRMINGHAM: All good things come to an end!

Without a shadow of a doubt, when he decides to call it quits, 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 have 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.

TACTICAL BLUNDER
One of the dismaying facts of the semi-final clash was India’s decision to make MS Dhoni bat at No 7. The veteran has been guilty of over-stretching chases on occasions in this World Cup but his wicket has always been a tough task for bowlers.

At 24/4, or even before that, Dhoni should have walked in to bring some calm to the storm. India were capitulating and the ship needed steadying.

He may not hit you through the line, but you won’t be easily able to get through his gates as well. With an ODI average of over 50, Kohli and Co for some reason, kept Dhoni waiting in the dressing room till they were left with no other option.

Dhoni at a No 4 or 5 would not only have arrested the collapse but could also have dragged along his partners, rescuing them from succumbing to the guilty pleasure of hitting big shots.

“In a run-chase like this, you cannot send a batsman like Dhoni at No 7. He could’ve come to bat early and batted the entire innings. Then we would have had Jadeja, Pandya and Karthik, whose contribution in four and five overs have been immense in the past. He (Karthik) struggles only when he has to begin the game from scratch,” Former India captain Sourav Ganguly said in his post-match analysis.

WANING POWERS
In a 240-run chase, with patience being the virtue, Dhoni was the ideal guy to pull the strings, with Pandya being the power-hitter to set fire to the rain in death overs. But Kohli had other ideas. Explaining the decision after the match, Kohli said Dhoni “was given this role of playing with the lower order after the first few matches”.

But that’s incorrect. The only three matches in group stages where Dhoni did not bat at No 5, against West Indies, England and Sri Lanka, was for the reasons that India either wanted quick runs in middle overs or the finish was a formality.

The only positive thing about India’s batting on the day was Ravindra Jadeja’s fighting knock of 77. But it did bigger damage, it gave us hope and the promises were not delivered.

CHANGE IN ROLE
He isn’t a finisher anymore. He isn’t capable of towing those big targets with bludgeoning sixes. Dhoni knows that, the Indian management know that, the fans know that, the world knows that.

He does what he does best now - occupy the crease and stop the flow of wickets. The runs still come at a questionable strike rate and if Jadeja had fallen early, India would most likely have folded for a total below 150.

But Jadeja - buoyed by a few tweets perhaps - is on top of his batting game. He single-handedly takes India close. Let’s repeat that.

Single-handedly takes India close.

This was Dhoni’s game and Dhoni’s chase. This was one situation - there aren’t many anymore - that India sorely needed Dhoni. And they opted to play into New Zealand’s hands by hiding him at no 7.

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