As much as they would like everyone to believe that they remained unaffected by court-directed changes at the helm of the IPL and the BCCI, it would have been difficult for the Indian cricketers, more so skipper MS Dhoni, to turn a blind eye to the developments back home. After all, there are seven players — the skipper included — who play for two IPL teams whose participation in the seventh edition of the tournament was under a cloud till Friday morning, the morning of the match.
Such off-the-field distractions are known to disturb the atmosphere in a dressing room. But nothing seems to have affected this Indian side, which has gotten better with each passing game. On Friday, they played the best of their three games so far — crushing the hosts Bangladesh by eight wickets to canter into the semi-finals of this World T20.
After three wins in a row, each as comprehensive as the other, Dhoni’s side became the first team to enter the last-four stage — a stage of the tournament they have failed to progress since their title-winning run in 2007. Minutes after he smashed the ball for a six to the sightscreen, Dhoni attended the post-match briefing.
He chuckled when asked if he would take any questions on the ‘controversy around the IPL and the BCCI’. “You can go home and ask them. It is just a 40-minute flight,” he said with a bright smile. Dhoni has had plenty to be pleased about in this tournament.
The bowlers have been on target. Ravichandran Ashwin bowled 15 dot balls against Bangladesh on Friday. In the other nine deliveries, 15 runs were scored off him but he scalped two wickets. Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami, to a lesser extent, have found their rhythm. Leg-spinner Amit Mishra, playing in a three-pronged spin attack, has increasingly looked comfortable using flight and turn to beat batsmen.
He bowled the last over of Bangladesh’s innings, and picked up two wickets off his first two balls and conceded just seven runs. Mishra is the third bowler Dhoni has experimented with to bowl the final over of the innings. The cushion of having restricted the opponents to modest scores (on Friday, it was 131/5) in the first 19 overs has given Dhoni the freedom to try out different options.
Ashwin was the Man of the Match in Friday’s game, the third in as many matches a bowler has bagged the mini-trophy for India. He dismissed opener Tamim Iqbal and number three Shamsur Rahman in successive deliveries in the third over of the innings.
The spin of the coin has also been going Dhoni’s way. Put in to bat, Bangladesh’s batsmen failed to get on top of the Indian bowling. They managed to score 138 for seven as only two of their batsmen crossed 30. Pakistan finished at 130 and West Indies at 129, but the Bangladesh bowlers, low on confidence after losing a match each in the first round and in the Super 10s, didn’t pose a threat.
Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli cantered to their second successive fifties of the tournament. The dismissal of Rohit in the 16th over gave Dhoni the opportunity to promote himself up the order and get some match-time. In his first competitive outing since landing in Dhaka, the captain made 22 off 12, an innings that included two sixes and a four.
“We can’t ask Virat to get hit-wicket or come back,” Dhoni said when asked about how worried he was that the full batting line-up had not been tested. The comment only reflected the dominance of the Indian team on the wickets in Mirpur, even as the game is on a sticky wicket off the field.