Former India skipper MS Dhoni has been known to be street-smart through his tenure as captain. There have been several articles written on his unbelievable calmness under pressure. He has also shown it time and time again that he is one of the most clever captains in the world.
In limited over cricket, the man from Ranchi is just phenomenal with his tactics and strategies. Sometimes he also takes a gamble, and that gamble seems to pay off wonderfully well. The man with the Midas touch also possesses a brilliant presence of mind.
In a nail-biting must-win ICC T20 World Cup 2016 encounter against Bangladesh, Dhoni again outsmarted the opponents with his impeccable street-smartness. Bangladesh required 11 runs off the last over, and they were on the verge of winning it comfortably.
However, Dhoni picked Hardik Pandya to bowl the last over, and he did a commendable job as he picked up two wickets in two balls. Bangladesh required two runs off the last ball, and it was time for the man to unearth some of his unbelievable skills.
The Bangladesh batsman Shuvagata Hom missed the ball from Pandya, but he quickly ran for a bye. But the skipper collected the ball from behind the stumps and ran like a sprinter to take those bails off.
The non-striker Mustafizur Rahman was well short of his ground and India won the match by one run. Dhoni’s magnificent presence of mind won India the game right at the end.
There are several other instances when the man’s presence of mind has won games for his team. Let’s have a look at five such instances
1. Giving Joginder Sharma the last over in the T20 World Cup Final
With Pakistan needing 13 runs off the last over, in the high-voltage final of the T20 World Cup 2007, Indian skipper MS Dhoni had two options. The experienced Harbhajan Singh had an over left, and so did Joginder Sharma.
It was a toss-up between the two. But Harbhajan in his previous over was carted for runs by Misbah-ul-Haq, and he was all over the place in that over. So Dhoni opted for Joginder Sharma who was relatively unknown in the international circuit.
The risk paid off as Joginder got Misbah out courtesy of a catch by Sreesanth. Misbah mistimed a scoop shot and Sreesanth, standing at short fine leg, gleefully took the catch as India won the inaugural edition of the T20 World Cup.
It was a gamble for sure but a well thought out one as Joginder was someone who was slower through the air. Misbah mistimed his scoop just because of that slowness in that delivery.
Well, it was early days for MS Dhoni. But surely the signs were ominous that he is going to be one of India’s greatest skippers of all time.
2. Giving spinners the last two overs in the 2013 Champions Trophy Final
In a rain-curtailed ICC Champions Trophy final in 2013, India was able to put up only 130 runs on the board in a 20-over game. MS Dhoni's men needed a near-miracle to take the trophy home.
The bowlers started well, but it was the introduction of spinners that turned the game on its head. The pitch was dry, and the ball was gripping and turning. However, the partnership between Eoin Morgan and Ravi Bopara brought England back into the game, and they found themselves needing 20 off the last 16 balls.
However, it was Dhoni’s masterstroke that won the game for India. He reserved the spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja for the last two overs, and that proved to be significant in the context of the game.
The skipper also turned to Ishant Sharma in the 18th over, where the lanky pacer picked up the crucial wickets of Morgan and Bopara. England were finding it tough to attack the spinners and Dhoni had his plans ready. Jadeja and Ashwin were able to justify their captain’s faith in them as India scripted a memorable win to lift the ICC Champions Trophy.
Thus, Dhoni became the only captain to have won all the ICC trophies possible.
3. Field setting for Kieron Pollard in the IPL Final
Everyone in the cricketing world is aware of the West Indies all-rounder Kieron Pollard’s big-hitting prowess. He is someone who hits it cleanly and prefers to hit it straight. However, it was sheer brilliance from MS Dhoni, which did the all-rounder in.
In the all-important IPL final in 2010 between the Chennai Super Kings and the Mumbai Indians, Chennai scored 168 after opting to bat first. Mumbai skipper Sachin Tendulkar was batting well, and the firepower in their batting line-up was well-known.
When Pollard came out to bat, Mumbai needed 55 off the last three overs. Dhoni knew it well that he liked to hit the ball straight. He kept a particular field for the West Indian all-rounder which had a straight mid-off and straight long-off.
Pollard started his blitzkrieg but couldn’t continue as he holed out to Matthew Hayden at straight mid-off. It was a brilliant tactical move that paid off.
4. Instructing Manish Pandey to cross him
Sometimes it’s not about finishing it yourself. Certain players can contribute differently altogether. MS Dhoni, undoubtedly one of the best finishers the game has ever produced, showed his impeccable presence of mind in the last match of the India-Australia 5 match one day series in Australia.
India lost the first four games despite brilliant batting performances, and they were staring at an embarrassing 5-0 drubbing.
In the final game, chasing 331, India needed 13 off the last over. Manish Pandey was playing a gem of a knock, batting on 98 in the last over. Dhoni was with him at the crease, and it was the captain who faced the first ball of the last over.
The first ball was a wide, and in the next ball, Dhoni hit a magnificent six to tilt the game in India’s favour. He got out next ball, trying to hit another maximum but he ensured that Pandey crossed him and took the strike. He instructed Pandey to cross him over as he knew it was Pandey who could win the game for India.
The commentator Dean Jones eulogized Dhoni for his presence of mind and brilliant captaincy.
5. Playing out the Malinga over against Sri Lanka in 2013
Cometh the hour, cometh the man. This man from Jharkhand has saved India on numerous occasions. One such occasion was in a Tri-Nation Series final against Sri Lanka in 2013. India, chasing 202 for victory, was going pretty well.
Then calamity struck as India lost wickets in quick succession, and at one stage they were reeling at 157 for 7. The man at the other end, unperturbed by the sudden calamity, was batting like he usually does. He was trying his best to shield the tail-enders from the best bowlers. However India lost two more wickets, and last man Ishant Sharma came out to bat. Dhoni knew that if Malinga gets a crack at Ishant, then India would surely lose the game. So he tactically played the patient game as he played out an over from Malinga without taking any unnecessary risk whatsoever.
Ishant had to face the less venomous deliveries of Angelo Mathews, and he did that successfully as India required 15 off last over. Dhoni had his calculations well in place as Sri Lanka had to bowl their inexperienced bowler Shaminga Eranda for the last over. Dhoni hit Eranga for two sixes and a four as India scripted a memorable win.