14 required from 7. MS Dhoni on strike, a big dilemma in his mind. Should he go for a single and then hope to get 13 of the last over or should he try and get a maximum and then hope for Kuldeep Yadav to get him back on strike in the last over? All the way until then, Dhoni had backed himself to “take it deep”. That’s his thing. Waiting for a mistake on the part of the opposition, maybe a few nerves, maybe a wrong decision. But that didn’t happen on Sunday. And Dhoni’s “Taking it deep” backfired.
A fuller delivery on off stump from Kesrick Williams, almost too full for Dhoni to get underneath, was heaved by him to long-on. It went flat and straight into Alzarri Joseph’s hands, who moved a step to the right and ended India’s hopes of sealing the series at Antigua. Dhoni looked at the sky, with eyes closed in disappointment. Then started a slow walk towards the dressing room. Normally he walks fast when he gets out and returns to the dressing room. That wasn’t the case here. Disappointment had turned to dejection on the way back.
It was that kind of a day when Dhoni thought “We’ll win if we bat out 50 overs” all through his innings and in an instant it all faded away. But what followed was him shaking hands with the opposition after Jason Holder stood tall with arms wide open, almost like Shahid Afridi. His spell of 5 for 27 earned the West Indies captain the Man of the Match.
Dhoni meanwhile had found the going tough, but hung in, unlike others. Finding gaps and rotating strike proved difficult, but Dhoni still stayed in the hunt to chase it down. Yes, the scorecard read 54 off 114, and with the pitch slowing down in the second innings, if Dhoni would have taken India past 189, there would have been no noise around his innings. It didn’t happen that way though. Thin margins.
Although, Dhoni himself in October 2016, had mentioned about the fact that rotating strike has become more difficult for him, as he is aging. “To some extent, I am losing my ability to freely rotate in the middle, so I have decided to bat up and let the others finish,” he said. But the fact is somehow Dhoni manages to find himself doing the dirty job most of the time. And that brings us to the question of what role did others play in the defeat to West Indies in the fourth ODI.
Dhoni had come in to bat at 47 for 3. Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli and Dinesh Karthik had gone back to the pavilion for scores of 5, 3 and 2 respectively. With Dhoni at the other end, Ajinkya Rahane was making most of his excellent form, and hit his fourth consecutive ODI fifty. When he got out for 60, India were 101 for 4.
Then came Kedar Jadhav who stayed for 14 balls scored 10 and a bat-pad off the bowling of Ashley Nurse, almost too casual, was caught by Shai Hope. Then Hardik Pandya, who is tipped by many think he can take up the finishing role from Dhoni. Pandya looked like he could take India home with Dhoni but then gave away his wicket in weird fashion. Weird because Pandya took guard on middle and off and then shuffled too far on off, exposing his leg stump which Jason Holder didn’t miss with his precise yorker.
When Pandya went it was 159 for 6, 31 needed off 29. Ravindra Jadeja came on with a Jadeja kind of presence on the pitch, hopping and popping out of the crease all the time, looking for impossible singles and doubles. Then with 17 needed off 16 he goes through a brain-fade moment, lofts a slower ball in the air, trying to slog when there’s no need, and picks out long-on.
It’s been eight years since Jadeja has been playing ODI cricket and there’s always been this sword hanging over his place, and it’s not because of his bowling or fielding. It’s because we haven’t seen him use his ‘sword’ in ODIs to win India games.
Nevertheless, with three wickets left you’d still think Dhoni could win it with balls to spare, but then Kuldeep Yadav eats up few crucial deliveries. By this time it’s all boiling down for Dhoni to be the scapegoat. And then, 14 required from 7. MS Dhoni on strike, a big dilemma in his mind…
India’s quest to find the next finisher continues.