Skipper Virat Kohli’s decision to send MS Dhoni at number seven in the semifinal clash against New Zealand has been badly criticised by former cricketers Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman. Dhoni scored 50 off 72 balls and shared a 116 run-stand with Ravindra Jadeja who slammed a swashbuckling 77 after the top order collapse but couldn’t avoid the 18-run defeat as New Zealand reached the finals for the second time in a row.
When asked about Dhoni’s batting position in the match, Laxman during a chat show for the official broadcaster said, “It was a tactical blunder to send Dhoni that low. They could have said the wicket of Dinesh Karthik and Hardik Pandya and let Dhoni build a partnership with Rishabh Pant.”
Ganguly, under whose captaincy Dhoni made his international debut, echoed Laxman’s views. “In a run-chase like this, you cannot send a batsman like Dhoni at number 7. He could’ve come to bat early and batted the entire innings. Then we would have had Jadeja, Pandya, and Karthik, whose contribution in four and five overs have been immense in the past. He (Karthik) struggles only when he has to begin the game from scratch,” said Ganguly.
In the rain-affected semifinal match, New Zealand posted 239/8 before bundling out India for 221.
New Zealand made it to their second successive final, with credit going to their pacers’ — Matt Henry (3/37) and Trent Boult’s (2/42) — deadly opening spell and Lockie Ferguson’s steely nerve in the penultimate over.
The script was eerily similar to the 2015 World Cup semi-final and just like that evening in Sydney, skipper Virat Kohli was once again out cheaply and Mahendra Singh Dhoni (50) was stuck in the middle overs.
Mitchell Santner (2/34) bottled Dhoni up and there was too much left for Jadeja to do even as he smacked four sixes and four boundaries to raise hopes of a turnaround.
Call it irony, Dhoni, in what could be his last international innings, was run-out by a direct throw from Martin Guptill.
This was after Dhoni and Jadeja raised visions of an improbable win after adding 116 runs for the seventh wicket, coming together at 92 for six. Jadeja came in under overcast conditions when all looked lost and then wielded the willow like a sword, proving a point to critics like Sanjay Manjrekar in the most befitting manner.
(With PTI inputs)