"Tonight was an MS classic. Only he knows what's going through his mind. He calculates the game so well. He backs himself to hit those big hits. Hats off to him…" India skipper Virat Kohli said after India’s 6-wicket win over Australia in Adelaide in the 2nd ODI. But, here is the question – what is an "MS classic"?
In his 15-year-long career, Dhoni has earned distinctions of being called as "Captain Cool", his tactics are termed as "Mahi way" and he has been hailed as the creator of a newly-developed shot – "the helicopter". But if there is one phrase that has chased him all his cricketing life, it has been "India’s best finisher". There was once a time, when commentators, pundits, and fans, used to bet whether Dhoni would finish the game off with a six.
Even though he changed his cricketing style, slowed down his run rate, and started playing more of a "captain’s role" in the latter stage of his career, one still believes in the 37-year-old Dhoni’s abilities to finish off the game in style for India. And after a wait of six years, Mahi did it again in Adelaide.
After Virat Kohli was dismissed for 104, the onus to take India home was on his broad shoulders. Needing 7 runs off the final over, MS Dhoni smacked a big one off Jason Behrendorff to make life easier before stealing a single for the series-levelling win. A look at his past records in the ODI format shows that it is after a span of six years that Dhoni has won the match for India in the final over and remained unbeaten.
Coincidentally, the last time Dhoni took India to a win in the final over was also against Australia. Chasing 351, in 2013, India needed 6 runs to win in the final over. Facing James Faulkner, the former Indian skipper played a dot ball, and then hammered the left-armer for a boundary. On the next ball, he took a double to give his side the win.
Overall, it is for the seventh time that an unbeaten Dhoni has taken India to a win in the final over in ODIs. Out of the previous 6 wins, on three occasions, he accomplished victories with a six in the final over, just like he did in Adelaide. What makes MSD special and his knack of chasing things down late is also in the fact that he tries to not leave things to the final ball. Of these instances, only once has a match gone to the final ball.
The first one came in 2009 against the West Indies. In a rain-truncated match, India needed 11 runs to win in the final over. Mahi was handed the strike on the second ball of the final over off Jerome Taylor and he launched it towards deep midwicket for the maximum. The game was eventually finished with Yusuf Pathan scoring the final run on the second last delivery. Later, in 2012, Dhoni hammered a six off Australia’s Adam McKay to help India cover the 13-run deficit in the final over.
In 2013, Dhoni smashed 16 runs in the final over against Sri Lanka to reach the required target of 204. With only one wicket in hand, and needing 15 runs to win in the final over, the right-handed batsman smacked a six, a four and another six, in three balls to take India home.
Dhoni’s innings in Adelaide has come after much criticism for his slow strike rate and deteriorating form. Fans can hope his showing in the second ODI will calm the furore about Dhoni, at least until the coming World Cup.