MS Dhoni is not known to be an expressive person; there is little he gives away to the number of cameras and the millions of eyes stationed on him. But on the breezy cool evening of June 23, 2013, under the glimmering light of the setting sun, blended with the turned on floodlights at Edgbaston, MS Dhoni danced!
The rather reticent wicket-keeper danced in absolute joy to the tunes of a delirious Birmingham crowd. Not like finishing-a-college-degree joy – which in most cases is plain inevitable – but more like a puppy reuniting with his mother after being lost in the streets.
MS Dhoni blossomed, dancing and jumping within himself at the same spot right behind the stumps; no stumping was affected or no dismissal was made – he even missed the ball. For a man the world knows very little about on a personal level, MS Dhoni showed too much.
— ICC (@ICC) June 23, 2021
He didn’t make any such celebrations when he led India to the 2007 T20 World Cup win, or when he “finished off in style” in the 2011 World Cup final at the Wankhede. There was a lot more than just a title victory – perhaps it was the celebration of successfully pulling Indian cricket out of the 2013 IPL spot-fixing abyss when people started putting doubts over their cricketers.
India have cut through the group stage with three comfortable wins over South Africa, West Indies, and Pakistan, and rolled over Sri Lanka in the semi-final. The final, however, against the hosts England went down to the wire with James Tredwell, the left-handed all-rounder, needing 6 off the last ball, which he missed off the bowling from Ravichandran Ashwin.
The start of the game was delayed due to rain (typical of the English weather to deny fans some cricket when they wanted it the most); about 75 minutes were added and the match was chiselled down to a 20-over per team affair – something which favoured India more than England.
Sir Alastair Cook won the toss and opted to field – a move preferred in the T20 format and with rain coming, Cook had no qualms about his decision. Strode out India’s openers – Rohit Sharma, who was having a career-turning tournament after being promoted to open, alongside Shikhar Dhawan, the to-be Player of the Tournament.
The Indian innings wasn’t resembling a T20 format innings though – the run rate was about run-a-ball. Worse – wickets fell too. By the 13th over India had lost half its side for 66 runs. Two youngsters in Virat Kohli and Ravindra Jadeja, who were making their name then and would later go on to become superstars, dragged the side to a par total of 129 with their scores of 43 and 33 respectively.
Indian bowlers started emphatically too, nipping out England’s top four for 46 runs inside 9 overs. Eoin Morgan and Ravi Bopara then steadied the innings with a 64-run stand. As the pitch got sticky, R Ashwin and Jadeja made hay of the conditions and kept the game alive.
The game hung in balance. It was about who blinked first. In such a scenario, you would expect MS Dhoni and his heavily talked about luck to prevail.
In a shocking move, with 28 needed off 18 balls, the captain called up Ishant Sharma, who has been India’s most expensive bowler on the night so far. This instead of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Umesh Yadav, who had combined figures of 5-0-29-1 which were decent even in a low-scoring game, and both didn’t finish off their quotas was perplexing.
But this was MS Dhoni’s gut that was making the decision, one which has served him and his country’s cricket team very well over the years.
On the second ball of the Ishant’s last over, the 17th of England’s innings, Morgan whacked a six off a short ball. The under-pressure pacer hurled down a couple of wides. The next two deliveries would change a lot of things – if not everything in the game.
Ishant changed his angle to round the wicket, and changed his luck too, as Morgan holed out a slower one to Ashwin at mid-wicket; next ball, a short one, this time Bopara pulls it absolutely straight to Ashwin again at square leg.
England had blinked first. India, on the back of an unlikely villain-to-hero Ishant, now had their noses ahead.
For the last couple of overs, MS Dhoni has saved an over of Ashwin and Jadeja each for he felt the spinners will be effective, despite the fielding restrictions they have to bowl in. And they vindicated their skipper’s hunch by delivering two outstanding overs, of course, as MS Dhoni had thought the ball stopped in the pitch and turned too, which is what Tredwell was beaten for on the last ball.
So, the Greatest – or as the people these days says GOAT – white-ball captain ever eh?
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