India’s winning percentage improved by leaps and bounds after MS Dhoni took over the reins of the Indian team as a skipper across all formats of the game. After Saurav Ganguly hardwired the outfit with the tenacity to win games in India and abroad, Dhoni showcased ingenuity and grit to pull off games from the glaring jaws of defeat.
What eventually seemed impossible, slowly started to manifest under India’s Captain Cool, who always used to stay magically calm in situations which could have rattled the best. We will enlist five instances where Dhoni apparently used inexperienced campaigners to topple gargantuan of the game in which no one could have imagined India victorious.
- India versus Australia (Commonwealth Bank Series 2008, second final)
India was 1-0 up in the sequence of three finals which were to be held to determine the winner of the series. All they needed was another victory to make the impossible happen.
However, they were off to a wobbly start as Australia kept on regularly plundering wickets not letting India settle. Sachin Tendulkar took a stand as he stitched a sedulous 91 from 121 deliveries finally falling prey to Michael Clarke. His scalp triggered a collapse of the Indian batting line up as India managed to rake up only 53 runs losing 5 wickets in the span of the next 10 overs.
With only 259 to score from 50 overs and the deep batting order which Australia bragged about, it seemed like a cakewalk for the hosts. There were a couple of things though which could have been a slight bother for the Australian outfit which were the dew and vehement signs of movement.
Instead of starting the proceedings with his primary option, Sreesanth, Dhoni gave away the ball to Praveen Kumar. Kumar’s pace was limited as the maximum that he could clock was 140 kays, however, he could wonderfully swing the ball either ways of the batsman.
He repaid Dhoni’s faith right in his very first over when he got rid of the vicious Gilchrist. Bowling only his third ball of the over, he bowled an outswinger that was angling away from Gilchrist and in an attempt to drive, the Australian wicketkeeper ended up nicking it straight to Dhoni.
His second scalp of the night came in his very second over, when he tempted Ricky Ponting to play his favourite shot to exceptionally slow delivery and that went straight down the throat of India’s most dependable fielder at mid-on, Yuvraj Singh, leaving Australia writhing at 8 for 2.
After the departure of Ponting, Michael Clarke and Matthew Hayden did some repairs to the innings as they were trying to stitch a partnership. However, the third jolt to a shocking awakening came once again at the hands of Praveen Kumar. With a good length delivery that surprisingly kept low, he rattled the off-stump of Clarke, razing through Australia’s top-order.
Kumar struck his final blow that actually ended all hopes of an Australian resurrection when he put an end to Brett Lee. James Hopes was doing good with Lee in between as both of them managed to form a 29 runs partnership that was slowly steering them towards victory.
Dhoni had to make a call early enough so that Australia could not get away with what was supposed to be India’s prize. He brought on Praveen Kumar. With the run rate climbing for the hosts, Brett Lee got impatient and wanted to smash Kumar down the park. In the process, he left the stumps gaping at him and a quick cutter from Kumar bombed down the defences of Lee and dismantled the stumps, also snuffing out any hope of an Australian comeback.
Though India had to fight it down the wire for their lives, they still managed to win it, thanks to a brilliant final over by Irfan Pathan, India’s reverse swing specialist. He got rid of Hopes with a short ball which the Australian batsman failed to grasp completely and hammered it straight at Piyush Chawla.
Of course, it was a collective effort that won India this crucial second final to notch up the series, however, excellent use of inexperienced Praveen Kumar did irreversible damage to the Australian batting as India won the game by 9 runs.
- Chennai Super Kings versus Royal Challengers Bangalore (IPL final, 2011)
This was a display of another strategic brilliance from MS Dhoni as he stalled a brilliant Bangalore with some mind-boggling bowling manoeuvres. After batting first, Chennai set a whopping target of 206 for RCB to chase. Murli Vijay and Mike Hussey bludgeoned every single RCB bowler and then Dhoni fired a blistering 22 off just 13 deliveries.
With a mountain to climb, Bangalore pinned all their hopes of a comeback on their monstrous opener, Chris Gayle. Despite Gayle’s strength against pacers, he needs time to settle in against spinners.
Dhoni opened the bowling with an inexperienced Ravichandran Ashwin. It not only needs guts but also some blind conviction as we are all aware that if Gayle got going, 205 wouldn’t have been sumptuous.
Ashwin summoned magic in the very first over as he forced Gayle to play a couple of deliveries bowled straight at his body and it kept to his gut. An over-pitched delivery that was slightly slower than the other two was spinning away from Gayle and the West Indian tried to cut it, ending up nicking to Dhoni, dealing a hefty blow the RCB hopes.
As soon as Ashwin sniffed turn on the wicket, he knew exactly what Dhoni deployed him for. The second victim to this spinning wizardry was Mayank Agarwal as he couldn’t even comprehend the carom ball and let the ball slid through his guard to leave Bangalore contorting in agony.
With ABD settling in alongside Virat Kohli, Dhoni brought in Shadab Jakati to the attack. Not a part of a single international game, it was probably insane for Dhoni to even contemplate introducing Jakati to the attack as both De Villiers and Kohli are brilliant players of spin.
Tempting the South African stalwart to go for a biggie, Jakati bowled a straight delivery at ABD, leaving him stranded in front of the stumps, with the ball caressing his pads. Only six overs of the innings were bowled and Chennai razed through the cream of RCB.
It was once again Jakati at the helm of further destruction as he got rid of a menacing Pombersach with another straight skitter, compelling Luke to hole up to the bowler in the exact same trajectory that the ball came.
After Shadab Jakati and Ravichandran Ashwin were conjuring winders with the ball, Dhoni introduced further surprise as he brought on Raina to the attack, a part-time spinner. It was Raina who got the most important scalp of Virat Kohli with a steep off-break that caught Kohli plumb in front of the stumps.
With RCB’s half of the batting line up gone, Dhoni wanted to kill the match once and for all as he once again brought Ashwin back to the attack.
All Ashwin needed was just one delivery and voila! He sent the New Zealand veteran, Daniel Vettori walking back to the stands with another cutter that found him plumb in front of the stumps.
Post this wicket, the Orange resistance fizzled away as they battled hard for survival instead of trying to chase down the total on the cards. Three new names and a bucket full of magic propelled Chennai to the throne.
- India versus Bangladesh (ICC T20 World Cup, 2016)
India was on the brink of being evicted of this tournament if Bangladesh would have sealed the game and in fact they did come extremely close to steal away the Indian hopes. However, call it good fortune or some magical captaincy from Dhoni, India managed to stay.
With only 146 on the board, India never seemed likely to bedevil their neighbors and Bangladesh was cruising towards the target. They needed only 11 to win from the final over and with a set Mahmudullah at the crease, it wouldn’t have been a difficult job.
Dhoni resorted to a young Hardik Pandya. With only two months of international T-20 experience under his belt, the youngster conjured wizardry of the highest order in the final three deliveries commingled with lightning-fast dismissals from the captain to win the thriller.
Mahmudullah steered the first ball to the deep cover for a single and brought their skipper on strike. The next delivery from Pandya was short and Mushfiqur bludgeoned it to the boundary to push Bangladesh closer to victory.
Things went further downhill for Pandya as he ended up bowling a delivery wide of the leg stump and the Bangladeshi skipper glanced it down the leg side for another boundary pumping his fists in exultant celebrations as he knew that Bangladesh was sniffing victory.
All the calculations were disrupted as Pandya executed a perfectly slow shot ball, tempting the batsman to pull and Mushfiqur ended up holing to Dhawan in the deep who took a good catch.
However, Bangladesh was still very much in the contention for the victory as Mahmudullah crossed to the other end and with only 2 runs to win from 2 deliveries, he made a hash of affairs in cursory. A tempting full toss from Pandya was slammed into the arms of Jadeja who pulled off a ripper from the air to push the game onto the final line.
With 2 needed off the last ball, Dhoni removed one of his gloves and waited behind the stumps. With the final ball moving away from Shuvagata Hom, they tried to pull off a bye to at least level things up. However, Dhoni charged in and dislodged the bails before the batsman could make the crease, thereby sending the Indians into rapture.
- India versus Australia (ICC T20 World Cup semi-final, 2007)
After some rampaging batting in the middle by Andrew Symonds and Matthew Hayden, Harbhajan Singh and Sreesanth brought the game under control for India with some fiery bowling. However, the game was still very much in Australia’s favour as Mike Hussey was still there at the crease and they needed 21 runs in the final over.
Despite the equation seeming impossibly uphill, Hussey’s wide array of shots could have actually taken the game away and Dhoni brought in medium pacer, Joginder Sharma.
Barely clocking at 120 kays, Sharma managed to secure a dot of the very first delivery. Sharma threw Australia off the equation as he bowled his second dot of the over making the equation 21 from 4 deliveries and even the best probably couldn’t have done it.
Australia’s hopes of any miracle were snuffed out as Sharma picked up Hussey in the next delivery. Failing to fathom the speed of the ball, Hussey miscued his shot and it was a simple take for Yuvraj.
With all hopes for Australia gone, Sharma didn’t really ease himself as he still managed to castle Brett Lee with one ball to spare and won it for India, fixing a tie against their arch-rivals, Pakistan in the grand finale.
- India versus Pakistan (ICC T20 World Cup final, 2007)
After thrilling inception to the tournament, winning off a super over against Pakistan, India had to once more defend their untainted glory over Pakistan in the same tournament and it was the final showdown.
After only managing to score 157, Pakistan was left unruffled by mesmerizing bowling from RP Singh and Irfan Pathan. However, Misbah Ul Haq steadied the Pakistani ship with a wonderful 43 of just 38 deliveries.
This is a tale of some final over heroics from Dhoni and Joginder Sharma who ushered India to glory. With only 13 needed off the last 6 balls and Misbah in full swing, Dhoni brought Joginder Sharma to the attack. India was just a wicket away from the trophy.
Sharma really couldn’t take up the pressure and ended up bowling wide of the off stump, reducing the margin for Pakistan.
Following the same delivery in close lockstep, he managed to bowl outside the off again and got away with it and Misbah could not connect.
He was planning to emulate the same delivery but this time ended up bowling full and Misbah clobbered it for a six. With only 6 needed from 4 balls, Pakistan could smell their maiden victory against India in World Cup history.
Destiny had something else in store for Pakistan as Misbah holed out straight to Sreesanth trying to play a blend of a scoop and a paddle sweep. With a slower delivery, Sharma stunned Misbah and he chipped it in the safe arms of Sreesanth who previously picked up the most important catch of Shahid Afridi, leaving Indian fans exploding in a delirious rapture.