MS Dhoni-led Jharkhand entered the semifinals of the Vijay Hazare Trophy after outplaying Vidarbha by six wickets at the Palam Ground, in New Delhi on Wednesday. Choosing to bat, Vidarbha found themselves in dire straits at 87 for seven before Ravi Jangid came up with a fighting 62 to take his team to 159 for nine in 50 overs.
Jharkhand’s potent pacers Varun Aaron, Rahul Shukla and Rahul Shukla tested the opposition with short-pitched stuff on a lifeless track, sharing four wickets among themselves. Later, Jharkhand openers Pratyush Singh (33) and Ishan Kishan (35) provided a solid start before Dhoni (18 not out) and Ishank Jaggi (41 not out) completed the chase in 45.1 overs. It was a rather fitting end to the game with Dhoni hitting a straight six in the first ball off Ganesh Satish.
The quarterfinal attracted attention due to Dhoni’s presence but the game was not of high quality with the slow pitch making life tough for the batsmen.
Life was also for tough for Dhoni fans who stood on the fence of the ground for the entirety of the game with the Air Force owned ground not equipped to handle large crowds. Quietly watching the action from the sidelines was chairman of selectors M S K Prasad.
With Jharkhand going about their chase comfortably, it did not seem Dhoni would need to come out in the middle. However, to the delight of people who were clung to the fence since morning, the moment did arrive with fall of Saurabh Tiwary at 116 for four and team needing another 44 runs for a semifinal spot.
It was rare sight as Dhoni walked into the middle in the sane setting of Palam Ground with business as usual on the road leading to the stadium. However the word of Dhoni out in the middle spread like fire and the passersby stopped their vehicles to get a glimpse of one of India’s favourite sons.
It was not a surprise that everything that came off his willow was cheered, be it a straight forward defence, a quick single or a boundary.
Batting alongside the experienced Jaggi, Dhoni’s first boundary was a cover drive off left-arm spinner Jangid. The duo, realising that strokeplay was difficult on the surface, were busy collecting the singles and complemented their stand with an odd boundary.
Dhoni’s humility also came to the fore as he happily obliged a fan with an autograph even though he had trespassed into the centre with Jharkhand nearing the victory target.