Cricket is a game filled with multiple calculations. In big tournaments like IPL, wise decisions win more matches than big decisions.
Of the 12 matches played in IPL 2019 so far, except for the RCB vs CSK and RCB vs SRH matches, the results of all other matches were unpredictable till the second strategic timeout. With the margins of victory being so small, there is a need for players who make the best possible decisions at the most crucial times.
CSK has been a hugely successful side in IPL because they have one such genius in their captain MS Dhoni. His latest piece of brilliance against Rajasthan Royals is a good example of his ability to make calculated moves in cricket.
Dhoni walked to the pitch when the scoreboard read 27-3. With 15 more overs to play, the fans expected their favorite players Dhoni and Suresh Raina to steady the sinking ship.
Dhoni, as has been his pattern in recent times, played slowly in the initial overs. The run rate was less than 6 an over.
The way Dhoni and Raina batted during the middle overs made people think anything close to 130 would be a good score. Little did they know that Dhoni was warming up for a big blast in the end.
Raina was dismissed in the 14th over, with the scoreline reading 88-4. Dhoni was expected by everyone to press the accelerator at that point to take his team to a decent total. But he had different calculations in mind.
He was right to be silent at that situation because he knew it was difficult for two new batsmen to score freely in the dead end of the innings.
Both Jofra Archer and Ben Stokes had produced good bowling spells until that point. It was obvious that they would be given four of the remaining six overs. Had Dhoni lost his cool and taken risks immediately after Raina's dismissal, CSK could have been left with two new batsmen to face the opponent's best bowlers.
Dwayne Bravo was given the freedom to go for the big shots. With a settled batsman at the other end, it eases the pressure on the new batsman and allows him to take risks. Bravo did exactly that.
He played a little cameo, scoring 26 off 17 balls, before losing his wicket in the penultimate over. Dhoni meanwhile brought up his 50 to set the launchpad for the last over.
Ravindra Jadeja scored 7 off two balls in the last over to give Dhoni the strike for the last three balls, which were all sent out of the park by the captain.
The innings he played is one of the most well-calculated ones of his career. He read the match situation well, understood his partners' capabilities and more importantly knew when to switch on his beast mode.
The pressure to score never affected his calculations. He punished the right balls and respected the good ones.
Rajasthan Royals missed someone like Dhoni to take them across the line. Players like Stokes and Archer struck a few good blows, but they allowed the pressure to disrupt their rhythm.
Dhoni's calculations did not stop with his batting alone. He showed his importance as a captain too.
While experts on TV suggested Dhoni finish off the spin overs soon to avoid the disadvantage of dew, the captain bowled 6 of the first 7 overs with seamers. And the seamers paid the trust back with three wickets.
He understood that the batsmen would find it difficult to read the pace of the seamers. It would have been easier for a player to settle down if spinners were brought in during the powerplay overs.
Rahul Tripathi was playing spin well. Making Shardul Thakur bowl one of his two overs would have been a conventional choice. But Dhoni trusted Tahir and Jadeja, for which the South African paid him back.
Giving Thakur an over in the middle would have made the situation tricky for Dhoni in the later part of the innings. So he avoided that eventuality by changing track early on.
Both Bravo and Thakur were a bit expensive in their third overs. Stokes and Archer were better batsmen against seamers than the spinners. Any other captain would have made a choice of giving one of the last two overs to Jadeja or Mitchell Santner. But Dhoni stuck with the two seamers for the final two overs.
A spinner was the right choice for the batsmen, but not for the conditions. The probability of a spinner bowling a bad ball in the dew was higher than that of a seamer doing the same. Dhoni was right to make that move, and CSK ended up landing on the right side of the victory line.
Dhoni's brilliance meant it was a hat-trick of victories for CSK and a hat-trick of losses to the Royals.
Dhoni is not a lucky person who gets victory out of nowhere. He just does the right things at the right time. He is a cricket calculator unlike anyone else.
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