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MS Dhoni finishes off in style, yet again

Last updated on 22 Apr 2022 | 01:22 AM
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MS Dhoni finishes off in style, yet again

Brain over brawn, MS Dhoni nailed another finish for Chennai Super Kings

The world stops moving when MS Dhoni is doing his thing. The viewership on Hotstar peaked at over 8 million around the finishing moments of the Mumbai-Chennai clash. In the game with multiple ebbs and flows, it ultimately rested on Dhoni to see Chennai through the chase. 

The legend of Dhoni is built on cracking such situations. Be it the 16 runs he scored in the last over versus Punjab in 2010 with the qualification on the line. Or the 15 runs to win the Celkon Cup in 2013 with no help from the other end. But that was almost 10 years ago. Dhoni isn’t 30 anymore. He is 40. 

At this age, he induces polarised opinions. At one end, his legion of fans wants him to play forever, ready to embrace all his flaws which are a consequence of growing age. The other category believes he has overstayed his time. You cannot blame them, to be honest. Having won nearly every trophy, he isn’t bereft of any honor.

There are visible chinks in his game. He plays cricket for only two months a year. He starts slowly with the bat. He has a strike rate of only 93.5 versus spin since 2020. On Thursday night, however, Dhoni showcased that finishing games are still not a problem for him. If anything, it is like a stroll in the park on a breezy Sunday morning. At least that is how he made it seem like in that last over.

When he got the strike in the final over, Chennai were 16 away with only four balls left. While the fans were biting their nails, Dhoni calmly unfastened and fastened his gloves to hit the zone. 

Jaydev Unadkat missed his length on the first ball to Dhoni. Instead of hitting the yorker, he served a full ball with plenty of room. Dhoni thumped it down the ground for a six. 10 runs were still left but the sound of the bat was assurance enough. 

The former skipper pulled the next ball for a four as if he had envisaged the trajectory of the ball before Unadkat delivered it. The next two deliveries were much better but having shifted the pressure back already, Dhoni razed off the deficit, almost without breaking a sweat. 


Dhoni has pulled off such heists against many bowlers but probably few know the pressure of bowling to him as well as Jaydev Unadkat himself. Before Match 33, Dhoni had churned out 83 runs from 36 balls from the left-arm seamer, losing his wicket only once, back in 2014. With his blitz today, he completed 100 runs against Unadkat in 42 balls. 

It is the fastest a batter has scored 100 runs against a particular bowler in the IPL. The crux of the Dhoni method has always lied in taking the game deep and targeting particular bowlers in the opposition.

Over 14 years of IPL, Dhoni has found himself in the final over of a run chase 29 times. He has scored 266 runs from 91 balls (strike rate 292.3). Dismissed seven times, Chennai have won 19 of these games. No wonder the skipper Ravindra Jadeja said: “We knew if he [Dhoni] played till the last ball, he can definitely finish the match.”

But who are these bowlers that MS Dhoni targets? It is basic to go all guns blazing in the 20th over irrespective of the bowler. A glance at the bowlers he has faced in the last five overs will paint a better picture. To keep recency relevant, the data in the table below is taken IPL 2019 onwards. 

He has often chosen to see off the speedsters and the consistent death overs’ stars; the likes of Anrich Nortje, Jofra Archer and Jasprit Bumrah. The other way around, he goes ballistic. 

On balls between 120 to 140 kph, he has a strike rate of 192 while averaging 53. That is exactly what Unadkat offered him. It doesn’t matter if he is 40 with waning batting prowess. It was an example that he can execute his method half asleep. 


One aspect where age can’t catch up is the mental aspect of the game. The body tires and the reflexes may slow down but the mind keeps getting better with every dose of experience. Dhoni is a tenacious personality, exemplary of the ‘temperament > technique’ ideology. 

Many criticize him for taking the game too deep but in run-chases, fielding sides keep their best bowler for the penultimate over, not the last. Dhoni waits for his best chance which yields the most efficient result. It is brain over brawn. These are the attributes that make him the best when it comes to absorbing pressure. 

"I think I am blessed with a bit of good cricketing sense," said Dhoni after the victorious Celkon Cup final in 2013. In that game, he saw past Lasith Malinga but struck gold in the final over against the inexperienced Shaminda Eranga. 


But that is not it. How can you miss his celebration? There was absolutely none of it. 16 runs from four balls. It had happened only thrice in IPL before. But all Dhoni did was raise the bat towards the dugout. No roar. Not even a smile. You might be surprised but if you know Dhoni as an individual, it was on the cards. 

He was calm and content with taking a stump as a souvenir when Chennai won their first title in 2010. They won in their comeback season in 2018 and he stayed seated in the dugout like a monk while the others began a joyful sprint to the ground. In comparison, closing a run-chase for the nth time in his career stood no chance of an emotional outpour. 

As he headed back to the pavilion, Jadeja bowed down to him. It felt like the gesture was on behalf of all of us who saw MS Dhoni finish off in style yet again. 

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