CHENNAI: It is not often that you get to see the world’s best fast bowler taken to the cleaners in the manner Chepauk witnessed on Thursday.
Watch IPL Videos
It is possibly in the nature of the T20 game that exposes even the best quicks to such treatment, but very few in the modern game could have pulled off what Chennai Super Kings skipper MS Dhoni did against Dale Steyn in the match against Sunrisers Hyderabad.
It was not for the first time that Dhoni had finished a match like this. Or, hopefully, the last, for such is the joy that he brings to the game.
46 runs off 24 balls can seem a canter for batting-heavy sides, especially with sufficient wickets in hand in this batsman-friendly format, but certainly not when express Steyn, who Waqar Younis predicted will finish among the top-3 quicks in the all-time list, is to bowl half those deliveries.
The manner in which Dhoni calculated his assault was remarkable, his shot-selection audacious, and he only re-established that he was indeed the master of the mind game.
Of the finish, Sunrisers coach Tom Moody had only this to say: “Look, Dhoni is special. It is as simple as that. You look at him in any format of the game, he performs remarkably. This is another example that he is a very special cricketer and a very special leader. Chennai (Super Kings) and India are very lucky to have him.”
Dhoni lashed Steyn’s first two deliveries of his third over for sixes over long-on – the second akin to a forehand tennis smash – to take some pressure off the chase, as 14 runs came off the 17th over, and a resounding warning sent across to the opposition camp.
Ishant Sharma conceded just four runs – Dhoni was mostly at the non-striker’s end – and scalped Bravo in the 18th over. Then, Dhoni dispatched Steyn for a six and a four, as 13 runs were accumulated in the 19th over for the loss of Ravindra Jadeja, leaving Chennai with 15 to get off the final over.
“When you have a player of Dhoni’s calibre in the team, an asking rate of eight to 10 is not much of a task,” CSK fielding coach Steve Rixon said, explaining the skipper’s importance in those crucial stages.
Despite West Indian all-rounder Darren Sammy having an over, Sunrisers’ skipper Cameron White handed the ball to Ashish Reddy. A surprising decision, considering Reddy, who had fired with the bat, was bowling his first over of the match.
Dhoni didn’t take time to launch into the hapless Hyderabadi youngster and finished the game off in four balls, acknowledging the cheers from wife Sakshi and her gang.
Many of the CSK fans, though, believe that Dhoni should look to finish the games off early, when the team is in a good position. For them, the last-over tension sometimes becomes too much, but Dhoni had his explanations.
“It’s not just about me, it also depends on the batsman at the other end, Bravo, for instance played a maiden… It’s difficult to gauge how many is too many in a situation like this,” the skipper said.
Playing in the spirit of the game
The sportsman Dhoni, too, earned a few points when he preferred to take a run less in the last over. With eight to get off four balls, Reddy bowled one down the legs and the umpire signalled it as wide.
It would have meant CSK would get five runs, but Dhoni informed the umpire that there was an edge, which meant he had to get an extra run to finish things off.
“I was sure that I had nicked the ball, hence told the umpire that it has happened,” Dhoni said. It only goes on to show the confidence of the man and the fact that he honours the game, even when it goes to the crunch.