New Delhi: To call India’s victory over Sri Lanka in the tri-series final on Thursday a Houdini act would be a great injustice to Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
The mind boggles when one tries to imagine the pressure on the skipper – 15 to get off six balls on a difficult Queen’s Park Oval wicket, and the last man at the other end. Failure is never an option, given the emotional nature of the Indian fan.
Dhoni called for a change of bats, picking the heaviest rapier in his repertoire. “I went with a heavy bat, the weight was perfect for slogging,” he later said.
The first ball from the pacy Shaminda Eranga produced a huge swing and a miss. Dhoni walked to square leg, regrouped, and came back.
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Eranga bowled a length ball next up, and Dhoni freed his arms to deposit it deep into the second tier down the ground.
Next up, a wide delivery that was slashed away behind point for four, followed by another length ball that was thrashed over extra cover for six. Job done and dusted, all on a hurting hamstring.
“I think I am blessed with a bit of good cricketing sense. I knew I could get 15 runs off the last over. I’m happy that it worked,” he said. “Sometimes you don’t really wait to be 100 hundred per cent fit. The problem with a hamstring injury is that there is a chance of re-occurrence. Since it was the final and we have two months off after this, I thought about taking the risk.”
Dhoni seems to have been born to absorb pressure. The equation wasn’t as difficult three overs before the end, but Lasith Malinga still had an over up his sleeve. Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews put him in charge of the 48th, and Dhoni took just two runs off it. No sweat.
Mathews’s aggressive move had paid no dividend, and he took it upon himself to deliver the death blow, trying to avenge every heartbreak the islanders have suffered at the hands of the Ranchi lad in the last few years. Unfortunately for him, Ishant Sharma proved as stubborn as Dhoni in resistance, protecting his wicket and giving the captain the exact launch pad he wanted.
“At times in these low scoring matches, you need to play boring cricket. It doesn’t matter whether you win in the 48th or 49th over,” he said.
It is no secret Dhoni loves the Sri Lankans — he averages 61.35 in 57 matches against them. Neither is his love for finishing a chase — in 72 successful chases, Dhoni averages a humongous 100.09, inflated no doubt by his penchant for staying unbeaten.
The most memorable example of both these facts came two years ago when Dhoni cracked that memorable unbeaten 91 to drive India to the World Cup title.
And once again, with a trophy on the line, Dhoni put his neck on the line and got it for India.
History will remember him as one of India’s greatest one-day players, and probably the greatest finisher this format of the game has ever seen. But for Dhoni, magnificence is just another day at the office.
LESSER- KNOWN DHONI FACTS
He didn’t always have straight hair. His curly hair was straightened and coloured by Dhiraj of Kaya Salon in Ranchi.
Used to ride around on his roommate Robin Kumar’s Bajaj Pulsar in Kharagpur, while he himself had only a bicycle. Now owns 14 motorcycles, including the Rs 28 X- 132 Hellcat.
Wasn’t as fond of milk as is generally believed, but used to drink it since he didn’t his friends’ favourite lassi. Couldn’t be away from cold drinks, though.
While his colleagues in Kharagpur would party and consume alcohol, Dhoni never showed interest in it. He was happy with chocolates instead.
The bat with which he played the last over of Thursday’s chase weighed a colossal 2kg. In contrast, Sachin Tendulkar, who is known to use one of heaviest bats in world cricket, usually prefers a 1.5kg bat.
Dhoni has now finished a successful chase a six on eight occasions. West Indies legend Brian Lara is second with five.
Reproduced from Mail Today. Copyright 2009. MTNPL. All rights reserved.