HARARE SPORTS Club was holding its breath. The whole of Zimbabwe was doing the same. This is what they had to come to see after all. This is what the tour was all about for the thousands that had gathered around the ground anyway. MS Dhoni on strike on the last ball of a match and a boundary to get for victory. For Zimbabwean and Indian alike, this was their ‘I was there moment’. The most-celebrated artiste of the run-chase all set to perform his signature act.
Of course not everyone at the HSC was hoping that Dhoni lives up to his reputation. Not the ever-enthusiastic ground announcer, Daniel Mackenzie, for sure.
“Support your players. This is your team. This is your game,” he shouted into the mike for the umpteenth time on Saturday. At the top of his run-up with ball in hand, stood 24-year-old Neville Madziva playing only his 19th international match.
He had obviously heard all about the legend of Dhoni growing up. But here he was face-to-face with his reality. This was as much his moment as it was Dhoni’s. With all the off-side fielders manning the boundary, it was pretty evident what was coming his way?a wide and full delivery. And Dhoni to his credit tried as hard as he could to scythe it through the gap between deep-point and deep extra-cover. All he could manage to do though was to find one of them and cross over for a single. Dhoni had failed. Zimbabwe had won their second straight T20 against India. And the HSC duly erupted with rampant delight.
It would be easy, and probably logical in some ways, to pull up Dhoni as the ultimate culprit of the defeat, and raise doubts over his apparently diminishing aura. But it would be unfair.
For, the fact that he even found himself in a death or glory situation was the domino effect of those around him messing it up. And the ones really responsible for the upset were the likes of Axar Patel and Rishi Dhawan, who chose to go for glory themselves without letting Dhoni what he does best. It also showed that all the IPL experience that this squad has garnered doesn’t always hold good when donning national colours.
Historically and you just have to look at his spectacular finish in the IPL where he scored 23 off Patel Dhoni has always thrived on cutting it fine for himself at the end. But here it was the others who were cutting it fine for him. And we just found out that however great a finisher you are and whatever your reputation, it’s not possible to chase a total down from the non-striker’s end. In the end Dhoni’s hands were tied.
Throughout their innings, the Indian batsmen had kept batting out after getting set, as if they were content with letting someone else finish the job. Going into the last over, Patel had smashed a four and six to bring the equation down to eight runs.
In the past we’ve seen Dhoni back himself to close the deal. But here with Patel striking it well, he chose to take a single off the first ball, hoping that the left-hander returns the favour. Instead, Patel decided to be the hero, and tried to swing a full delivery over the long-off boundary, only managing to find the fielder. In walked Rishi Dhawan.
Considering his status as an all-rounder, Dhoni found it prudent again to run a single and bring him on strike. Again, Dhawan’s role was simply to push the ball and bring his well-set captain back on strike. For good effect, Dhoni spent a minute explaining the situation to the youngster too.
But what Dhawan did was walk right across his stumps, telegraphing his movement quite early, and missed a wide delivery from Madziva. Down came Dhoni, and the message seemed pretty clear. “Stand your ground, push the ball and run.”
Instead Dhawan tried it again and same result. Fortunately, umpire Russell Tiffin called it a wide. By now Dhoni was fuming. The Himachal Pradesh (HP) right-hander had similarly picked the ludicrous over the logical during one of his first ODI outings Down Under earlier in the year.
India needed five off two now. Finally, Dhawan heeded to his captain’s orders and pushed for a single. That meant, Dhoni was put on the spot and left with putting his reputation on the line. And to an extent it did take a beating. But his own team was as liable for it as Madziva and his nerveless feat.
Brief Scores: Zimbabwe 170 for 6 (Chigumbura 54*, Waller 30, Bumrah 2-24) beat India 168 for 6 (Pandey 48, Chibhabha 2-13) by two runs.