Did Dhoni’s refusal to take two runs off a miscued shot in the last over cost India the first T20 against Australia?
India lost a cliff-hanger of a T20 match in Visakhapatnam against Australia, who needed two runs off the last ball, which they managed by scampering through.
A post-match analysis could present us with several reasons as to why India lost the match. The desire to go for too much in the last ten overs of India’s innings by throwing caution to the wind proved counter-productive. So did the fact that India had a rather long tail with Umesh Yadav batting as high as number eight.
India’s bowling performance was quite good, but Umesh Yadav’s first and last overs were far too expensive. His first over helped Australia break the shackles, and his last undid the great work done by Jasprit Bumrah in the penultimate over.
But there could be one more reason why India lost. In the last few overs, with only the longish Indian tail for company, MS Dhoni decided to face most of the remaining balls. Especially when Yuzvendra Chahal came in to bat, Dhoni decided against taking singles off not just the first or second ball of an over, but even the third and fourth ball, quite a few times.
This was, in theory, a good strategy as he was the only recognised batsman, and him facing more balls was good for the Indian innings. But the slow nature of the pitch and intelligent bowling by the Aussies ensured that Dhoni could manage only one big hit in the last five overs, when he had Umesh Yadav and Chahal for company.
Dhoni turned down several singles in the last five overs, but there was one crucial moment where he decided against running, when there was a clear possibility of two runs, that possibly proved the difference between a victory and a loss for India.
It was the fifth ball of the last over of the Indian innings, bowled by Coulter-Nile. Dhoni miscued a shot and the ball was in the air for a long time, and eventually fell short of long leg. If Dhoni had decided to run when he saw his shot being top-edged, he could have easily ran two.
Of course, in pressure situations, one tends to make some errors once in a while. A similar ‘error of judgement’ was made by Dinesh Karthik only a couple of weeks ago in a T20 match against New Zealand, when he refused to take a single in the last over that could have brought Krunal Pandya on strike.
However, it cannot be concluded that this refusal to take two was a contributing factor in India's loss, and things might have still turned out differently. MS Dhoni is one of the greatest cricketers to have ever played for India, and he, along with Team India, will be looking to turn their fortunes around in the 2nd T20I.