At 109/0, India were cruising to another comprehensive victory over Sri Lanka. But the 15-minute mayhem caused by the young mystery spinner Akila Dananjaya left the visitors in tatters. Off-spin, leg-spin, Dananjaya flummoxed Indian batters to take a six-wicket haul, pegged back India to 131/7, and almost pulled off a highly unlikely win for the hosts against the mighty Indians.
The experience of MS Dhoni and self-belief of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, however, came to India’s rescue as they stitched a 100-run partnership to take India to a three-wicket win in the second ODI at Pallekele. With the win, India also took a 2-0 lead in the five-match series.
Bhuvneshwar was the face of the tricky chase. He struck his maiden fifty to lead India to a sweet victory. But as always, there are two sides to every story. And the other side of the successful Bhuvneshwar story was former India skipper Dhoni. True to his nickname ‘Captain Cool’, the Ranchi lad kept calm and helped India beat their rivals.
Dhoni the finisher came to fore with his unbeaten 45, but it was his contribution throughout the match which proves that he remains invaluable to the team.
The quick hands
With the stumping of Sri Lanka opener Danushka Gunathilaka in the 14th over, Dhoni equalled the world record for most stumpings held by Kumar Sangakkara. It was his 99th victim.
Most stumpings in ODIs99 Kumar Sangakkara99* MS Dhoni75 Rumesh Kaluwitharana#SLvInd— Mohandas Menon (@mohanstatsman) August 24, 2017
Now, the wicketkeeper-batsman may not posses the same ability to unleash firepower with his bat as before, but when it comes to wicket-keeping – he’s second to none.
Selectors have considered Rishabh Pant as his replacement. The Delhi cricketer has also featured for the team in T20Is, but the guardians of the game are also aware that there’s no one at present good enough to replace the veteran.
The ability to make something out of nothing through his quick reflexes behind the stumps and presence of mind makes him the guy to bank upon, presently.
Dhoni the mentor
Dhoni and Bhuvneshwar’s unbeaten 100-run partnership is India’s highest for the eighth-wicket in ODIs. The pacer joined Dhoni in the middle when India were struggling at 131/7 and another wicket would have opened the floodgates for Sri Lanka as Jasprit Bumrah and Yuzvendra Chahal’s inability to bat is well documented.
Sensing the importance of the occasion, the former skipper brought in all his experience into play to build a rare partnership. Dhoni not only played a vital innings himself, he also mentored his partner to take India home.
A low required rate and modest target did help their case, but some of the best batsmen had already failed in the match. Dhoni soaked the pressure initially and relied on singles and doubles to lay the foundation. The freedom later allowed Bhuvneshwar to free his hands as he scored flamboyantly towards the end.
Dhoni the finisher
Few may be disappointed that Bhuvneshwar stole the limelight with his maiden fifty. Dhoni’s gritty innings of 45 only had one boundary. It wasn’t the most typical Dhoni innings, but make no mistake, it was effective as ever.
It’s not a hidden fact that Dhoni’s willow isn’t as quick as before, but the responsibility to score quick runs down the order has now been passed on to Hardik Pandya and Kedar Jadhav. And with KL Rahul batting at No. 4, Dhoni isn’t expected to come before No. 5.
If you need batting blitzkrieg in a match, Kohli can always promote Pandya or Jadhav ahead of Dhoni. But in games like the second Sri Lanka ODI, the man for crisis, Dhoni, will always come handy with his experience.
Experience, runs and wicket-keeping. India are looking to build a team for 2019 World Cup and Dhoni has shown that at present they don’t have any individual to fill his shoes.
Feature image: AFP