Updated: September 20, 2017 1:09:50 pm
Sometimes, when MS Dhoni is at his larking best behind the stumps, the commentators maintain a dignified silence. They fathom that the audience will be keener to listen to Dhoni barking a blend of instructions, observations, admonishments, and when the mood seizes him, ridicule, mimicry and sarcasm.
On YouTube, there are many hilarious compilations of Dhoni’s running commentary. In one of those, he is yelping at a wandering S Sreesanth: “Oye Sree, udhar girlfriend nahi hai, idhar aa ja thoda (Your girlfriend is not there, move a little this side). Then there are those that always feature Ravindra Jadeja. “Jaddu thoda aur flight de sakta hai (Jadeja, you can flight the ball a little more).”
The commentators paused several times on Sunday night, for Dhoni was at his most instructive and intrusive. The two young wrist spinners, Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal, afforded the stump mic ample opportunities to catch Dhoni’s gravelly voice. “Thoda peeche dalo na (pull your length back a bit),” he kept screaming at Yadav when he bowled to David Warner, for he knew the Australian has a tendency to cut even those deliveries that are not entirely short, and therein lurks the possibility of an edge to the keeper. Warner perished exactly in that fashion, shaping up for a booming cut, and strangled by the length.
Dhoni played his bit in dislodging the next likeliest batsman to have steered Australia over the line — Glenn Maxwell. The moment he came to bat, he began almost imploring Yadav to bowl outside the off-stump, “Stump pe mat dal,” he ordered. But the chinaman bowler was not at his accurate best, perhaps the extra nip off the surfacing was neutralising the turn he generally procures. Maybe, he was carried away by the reverse sweep Maxwell attempted and missed off the first ball of the 10th over. So, he aimed more at his body. It, however, meant he ended up bowling in Maxwell’s arc.
Subscriber Only Stories
The second ball, slithering down the leg-side, was muscled to the fine-leg fence. Dhoni, his hands on hips, belted out, “Arre baahar daal, isko itna aage nahi (Bowl outside the off-stump, and don’t bowl this full).” Yadav tried, but he could only correct by a few centimetres. The delivery on middle-and-leg disappeared over deep midwicket. The natural reaction, then, for a bowler will be to pull his length back. But Yadav slowed the delivery and gave it more air. Maxwell just slapped him straight over his head. This time, Dhoni didn’t say anything. The cold stare spoke enough. The next ball again was on his legs, and Maxwell, now buoyant, smeared him over square leg. 22 runs came off the over, and with Maxwell in murderous mood, the steep target suddenly looked not totally out of reach.
Maxwell’s ploy was simple — he was playing Yadav, whose stock ball spins into the right-hander, like an offie, striking with the turn. Yadav’s slowish pace — and on Sunday his drift too was missing — gave him sufficient time to get under the ball. As he demonstrated, he is an excellent player of stump-bound deliveries. All these strokes were there in his Test hundred in Ranchi earlier this year when Ravichandran Ashwin was culpable of nourishing his strengths.
‘Laga vo ghoomne wala’
On other occasions, his carnage might have tempted the skipper to hold back the spinner from the other end, and bring a pacer back into the attack. But Kohli persisted with Yuzvendra Chahal. Chahal generally breaks the ball away from the right-hander, and could thus force Maxwell to play away from his body and do something silly. Chahal, too, started in much the same way as Yadav, irking Dhoni, “Tu bhi nahin sunta hai kya (You also won’t listen)?” The leggie made immediate amends, and induced a brace of false shots. A leading edge almost carried to the bowler, before he was beaten when attempting the reverse sweep. “Aise, aise dalo,” Dhoni complimented.
The next delivery slipped out of Chahal’s hand, onto his legs again and Maxwell muscled it over square leg. Dhoni rattled out the instructions, “Laga vo ghoomne wala (bowl the one that turns).”
Chahal’s next ball was pitched way outside off-stump and Maxwell bent his knees, attempting to lift the ball into the dark sky over cow corner. Had it been Yadav, he could have stood in his follow through and admired the ball crashing into the roof. But this one was the orthodox leg-break and the turn away was enough to induce a miscued stroke. Maxwell could have moved a little more across and covered the spin, but he was so pampered by the body-bound freebies that instinct prevailed over acquired wisdom. The length too was perfect — had it been shorter, he would’ve slashed it behind point or swung away over cover.
Even before Hardik Pandya pocketed the catch in the deep, Dhoni broke into a didn’t-I-tell-you-so smile. Chahal sprang and barged into his body, and later in the press conference credited Dhoni. “Kohli and MS told me to bowl the one that turns and keep checking his feet. My idea was to bowl a little wide to him, from there if he hits a good shot, then it is fine,” he said.
Chahal calls Kohli his friend and Dhoni his mentor. On Sunday, the mentor taught him a few fine lessons.
📣 Join our Telegram channel (The Indian Express) for the latest news and updates
- The Indian Express website has been rated GREEN for its credibility and trustworthiness by Newsguard, a global service that rates news sources for their journalistic standards.