Cricket is called a game of uncertainties. Every ball and every instance plays some part in the eventual result of a match.
If you have just one man among your eleven who can turn a game with a stroke of genius, you consider yourself lucky. However, at times, the situation doesn't demand a stroke of genius. A smart mind is the need of the hour. A mind that can be observant enough on the proceedings and react to situations accordingly.
On that note, we take a look at ten instances where cricketers showcased admirable presence of mind. Note: This is not a ranked list.
1. MS Dhoni in 2016 ICC World T20 against Bangladesh
In the 2016 World T20 held in India, the hosts found themselves on the brink of elimination in the group stage. After losing their opener to New Zealand, India were staring at a second defeat of the tournament against Bangladesh. With Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah at the crease, Hardik Pandya was entrusted the responsibility to defend 11 runs in the last over..
The over started on a disastrous note for the hosts. The first three balls of Pandya's over read 1-4-4, thereby reducing the equation to just two runs off three balls.
Mushfiqur Rahim then hit an ill-advised lofted shot straight to Shikhar Dhawan. On the next ball, Mahmudullah repeated the same stroke to the same area of the field and perished in the process. This time MS Dhoni had swapped Dhawan for the best fielder in the team, Ravindra Jadeja.
With Shuvagata Hom facing the last ball and two runs required off it, MS Dhoni took his glove off before Hardik Pandya's delivery. Pandya bowled a widelength ball that was gathered safely by the keeper. Bangladesh nevertheless went for the single. Dhoni, despite having a clear sight of the stumps, decided not to risk a throw and instead made a sprint to the stumps to take the bails off.
It was street-smart cricket by the captain who knew that the batsman had to cover more ground than he would have to. Dhoni had taken his glove off in case he needed to throw the ball. The decision of swapping Dhawan with Jadeja in the penultimate ball also turned out to be a gem.
2. Jasprit Bumrah coaxes Keaton Jennings at the Ageas Bowl (2018)
The Indian tour to England in 2018 saw a fabulous five-Test series which England eventually won comfortably. The fourth Test at the Ageas Bowl was a highly anticipated affair as the series was poised 2-1 in England's favour.
Jasprit Bumrah showcased a brilliant piece of bowling in this Test to dismiss Keaton Jennings in the first innings. In his first over, Bumrah angled three balls away from the left-hander, tempting him to play a shot.
Bumrah then revealed his trap in the first ball of his second over. Jennings anticipated a similar ball, angling away from his bat to the keeper, and decided to leave it without even observing the angle. Albeit, this time Bumrah had swung the ball back into the left-hander, trapping Jennings plumb in front.
The English opener was left gathering his wits. At first sight it appeared like a comical dismissal. However, it was nothing more than a brilliant inswing delivery coupled with a proactive thought by Bumrah that dismissed Jennings.
3. Steve Smith's catch to dismiss Fawad Alam (2014)
In 2014, Australia and Pakistan played a three-match ODI series in Abu Dhabi In the third ODI, Steve Smith's catch to dismiss Fawad Alam caused quite a stir but nonetheless, it was a piece of brilliant reaction from the Australian.
Chasing 231 runs to win, Pakistan were at 80/2 as Xavier Doherty was mid-way through the 18th over of the innings. In the fifth ball of Doherty's over, Steve Smith started at a conventional slip position for a left-hander.
As Doherty delivered the ball, Fawad Alam leaned forward to play a paddle sweep. Steve Smith, observing the movement of the batsman, made a quick run towards leg-slip before the ball had reached the batsman. He found himself getting an easy catch ultimately, leaving Fawad Alam bamboozled.
Going by the rule-book, the movement by Steve Smith was controversial at that time. But now law 28.6.1 in the amended rule-book clearly states the following, thus deeming Smith's movement to be a fair one.
Law 28.6.1 Any movement by any fielder, excluding the wicket-keeper, after the ball comes into play and before the ball reaches the striker, is unfair except for the following:
220.127.116.11 minor adjustments to stance or position in relation to the striker’s wicket.
18.104.22.168 movement by any fielder, other than a close fielder, towards the striker or the striker’s wicket that does not significantly alter the position of the fielder.
22.214.171.124 movement by any fielder in response to the stroke that the striker is playing or that his/her actions suggest he/she intends to play.
4. Peter Nevill stumps Dimuth Karunaratne (2016)
In the Australian tour of Sri Lanka in 2016, Peter Nevill took a controversial decision to stump batsman Dimuth Karunaratne. After facing Nathan Lyon's delivery, the batsman thought the ball made a natural movement across his crease. However, Peter Nevill was doing a bit of ninja-work behind the stumps and waiting with the ball in his hand.
Dimuth Karunaratne thought that the ball was done and dusted. Peter Nevill waited for the moment when Karunaratne's foot was in the air, and took the bails off at the exact instant. Nevill appealed for a stumping and the batsman was given out. It was a cheeky bit of play by the Australian wicketkeeper but was a tad controversial nevertheless.
MS Dhoni had stumped Sabbir Rahman in 2016 World T20 in a similar manner. However, Dhoni did not wait with the ballin hand, for the batsman to lift his foot thinking the ball was dead. Dhoni took the stumps off at the right moment, while Sabbir Rahman had not completed his follow-through movement.
5. Faf Du Plessis' innings declaration against Australia (2016)
In their 2016 tour of Australia, South Africa won the three match Test series, 2-1. In the third Test in Adelaide, which was the third ever day-night Test, Faf Du Plessis showcased exquisite batting and declared his team's innings at 259/9. The South African skipper was not out at 118 at that time but chose to declare.
At first look, it seemed like a poor decision from the Proteas skipper but du Plessis knew what he was doing. Apparently, David Warner was off the field for a while due to an injury.
For Warner to open the innings, he would have had to spend the same amount of time on the field, which he hadn't done. Du Plessis was attentive and he caught the Australians on the wrong foot, forcing a change in the hosts' opening combination and also getting them exposed to the pink-ball for the last few overs of the day under floodlights.
Australia eventually won the Test but the decision by Du Plessis was an example of his sharp cricketing mind.
Fielders' absence Law 126.96.36.199: If a fielder fails to take the field at the start of play or at any later time, or leaves the field during play, he/she shall not be permitted to bowl, until having been back on the field of play for a period of time known as Penalty time.
The maximum penalty time is ninety minutes.
6. AB de Villiers countering yorkers with unorthodox shots
The yorker is the deadliest weapon in a bowler's arsenal. When a batsman begins to counter the yorker effortlessly, the bowler feels helpless and demoralised. AB de Villiers has showcased his insane ability to unleash unorthodox shots at will. He could play the shots anywhere on the field.
On a lot of occasions, he even lies down on the ground to counter the yorker. De Villiers' wrist strength allows him play all those strokes. Besides, he also has a sharp cricketing mind that helps him anticipate how much to move across and where to execute a shot. It all happens as if it's nothing for him.
7. Rahul Dravid kicking the ball away from the stumps (2011)
Rahul Dravid is known for his calm demeanour and patient batting in Test cricket. When West Indies visited India in 2011, Dravid showed how responsive he could be to any situation. Dravid was batting on 52 with Sachin Tendulkar as the Indian scoreboard read 172/2.
Facing a ball from Devendra Bishoo, Rahul Dravid defended the ball which bounced off the ground and proceeded in the direction of the stumps.
Dravid recovered quickly from his defending posture and swiftly kicked the ball away before it could go on to hit the stumps. Had he used his bat, it would have been illegal.
8. Matt Renshaw effects Matthew Wade's dismissal in BBL 2019
Matt Renshaw and Matthew Wade were involved in a pretty controversial incident in the last Big Bash League. In a league game between Brisbane Heat and Hobart Hurricanes, Matt Renshaw took a catch of Matthew Wade that sent the latter back to the pavilion.
Ben Cutting was bowling to Wade who smacked the ball right off the meat of the bat. It went soaring towards the deep midwicket boundary. Matt Renshaw came around and caught the ball inside the field. But due to his weight going over, he threw the ball up and stepped over the boundary. The ball would have gone over the boundary rope for a six, but Renshaw while in the air lobbed the ball back to a teammate to complete the catch.
The decision was given out and it was a legitimate wicket in accordance with the MCC rules. It was a very smart work on Renshaw's part to jump over the ropes, move the ball into the field of play, and let a teammate complete the catch.
Fielder grounded beyond the boundary:
Law 19.5.2: "A fielder who is not in contact with the ground is considered to be grounded beyond the boundary if his/her final contact with the ground, before his/her first contact with the ball after it has been delivered by the bowler, was not entirely within the boundary."
9. Jasprit Bumrah's slow yorker to Shaun Marsh in Melbourne Test (2018)
Going into the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne between India and Australia in 2018, the series was tied at one apiece. Jasprit Bumrah claimed a five-wicket haul in the that test. On day three, however, he showed that not only was he a good bowler but he was a shrewd player as well.
Australia were batting at 89-3 on the stroke lunch. There was one ball remaining in the morning session. Jasprit Bumrah bowled a very slow yorker out of nowhere. It caught Marsh by surprise as the batsman missed the ball completely. The left-hander was given out LBW as India went on the win the game.
The decision to bowl that slow yorker one ball before lunch was an unexpected one. Yorkers do not generally bring a lot of wickets in Test matches but on that day Bumrah exhibited a piece of smart thinking to catch the batsman off-guard.
10. MS Dhoni runs out Mitchell Marsh (2016)
In the third ODI between Australia and India in 2016, in Melbourne, MS Dhoni showed yet again why he is one of the smartest cricketers around. Chasing a target of 296, Australia were four down for 203 as Bhuvneshwar Kumar was bowling.
Mitchell Marsh punched a ball towards deep extra cover and ran for a few runs. Umesh Yadav gave chase and prevented a boundary before throwing the ball back at the batsman's end.
Marsh would have safely made ground had he shown a bit more urgency. MS Dhoni, however, outsmarted the Australian player. While coming towards the wicket, Dhoni walked slowly, not showing any signs that the throw was coming to his end.
The batsman was fooled into thinking that the throw was arriving at the bowler's end and did not speed-up or stretch till the final moment. When the ball arrived, Dhoni quickly collected it in front of the stumps and took the bails off before the batsman was in.
It could be seen in replays that Marsh was running back casually because he did not think that he was in danger of getting out.