At the start of the match yesterday, I happened to see a Ramesh Srivats post that said
“Beggar to Dhoni : Sir do you have any change?
Dhoni : Sorry, it’s the same 11”
That kind of explains a lot about Dhoni, the street-smart gambler that he is. There is a “tapori” (street thug) craftiness about the way he goes about playing his game, which is seen in the way he did that nano-second flash stumping of Shabbir off a wide ball down the leg side by Raina. It looked like he had asked Raina to bowl wide off leg stump, get Shabbir off-balance and just like a samurai wait for that split second when the foot goes off the ground to hit the stump, and then without a fuss, appeals to the leg umpire. As though he had planned every move of that act, scripted and executed by him to perfection! Yet he said to the journalist in the post-match press conference, that “cricket matches are not played to a script”. Which is true!
Dhoni’s game is difficult to analyse, as he thrives under constraints and converts an uphill task or challenge into an unbeatable opportunity, all in a split second. That is why he is also the best finisher of the game, as he does not buckle under pressure. I guess he sees things in slow motion, what others see while their heart beats shoot up in a crunch situation. That is why he is also the best captain in limited overs games. When things are brought down to a few balls or an equation that is tough to handle, Dhoni just walks past the line like a guy who does not attend the class regularly and scores poor in class “tests” (pun intended for tests), but clears a high pressure competitive exam that is time constrained. For the simple reason, he doesn’t panic when things turn to a tight spot. And hence is at a much better footing compared to an opposition that plays by the “text book” and gets worked up when constrained by time or resources.
For that, Dhoni would want his own trusted resources, whom he knows will execute what is to be done as told by him in that situation, than try something clever on their own. Because, HE is running the script at that time. This is why he would give the last over to a Joginder, or like yesterday to Hardik Pandya, as he kept explaining what he had instructed Hardik to bowl as the last ball. Just a bit wide and short out of reach of the batsman, yet not a wide ball, that even if the batsman misses, they would go for a run, and he could outrun them to the wickets, as exactly as how he did and was prepared for it with the right glove off even before the ball was bowled. Or worst case, if he could not run the batsman out, it would still be a super over. This is why he would go with his “own” resource, like a Pandya, or Joginder, when we were wondering why not Yuvi, especially when Jadeja was getting a good turn.
This is also the reason Dhoni explained why he would prefer a Munaf Patel, who had lost out on pace, over a Sreesanth. “He will exactly bowl where I ask him to, for the field set, and that is what I want when I want to choke up the runs”, he once said.
That is why Jadeja is always there in his script. Because he knows, he will save these many runs on the field, like he did yesterday, on top of whatever he may or may not score while batting. And then take such a difficult running catch on the penultimate ball, of Mahmadullah, especially when we saw a few easy ones were being dropped yesterday by Bumrah and Ashwin. And that is why he mostly goes with the unchanged eleven. To get his script right at the crunch, when he can turn the game away to his advantage as many times he had done and had proved successful. Yet remains unpredictable for the text book cricketers who are not to used to this “tapori”, thug life!
As Dhoni himself says many a time, it’s a gamble so it could go the other way easily. But more often than not it has gone his way, like in yesterday’s game. For he knows what he was doing, and takes the risk boldly by his street smart tactics. Which earns him the name “gambler”, and his detractors (including many of my friends), use that to insinuate even “fixing”, considering the betting scandals and the fall out of CSK. But there is one difference in the way he gambles and the fixers do. Fixers do it to lose a game. And Dhoni had won each time, he gambled!
Which makes him such a “cool” captain, in limited overs game!
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