It is as if, with MS Dhoni into the twilight of his
storied career, the cricketing gods are in overdrive to add to the icon’s already
The latest layering of the Dhoni legend began at the toss, which Dhoni won and opted to bowl first. “We are not sure of the wicket,” he said, an almost throwaway remark that proved remarkably prescient within the first six overs of the RCB innings.
There was a hint of things to come in the third over, when Deepak Chahar bowled one back of a length around the line of fifth stump – the sort of thing Virat Kohli, batting at number one here, dines out on. Kohli went for the back foot pull and found the ball sliding a good six inches under his bat, much slower than he had anticipated.
Now add the next layer to the story of Dhoni’s omniscience: he ot only picked Harbhajan Singh – whose last wicket was on May 11, 2018 when he bowled Rajasthan Royals’ Ben Stokes -- in the playing XI but trusted him to bowl the second over of the innings against two batsmen, Kohli and Parthiv Patel, who are no bunnies against quality spin.
In his second over, the off-spinner got the bounce and just the amount of turn he needed to make a total hash of Kohli’s attempt at a short arm; the batsman dragged the ball into the hands of Jadeja at midwicket. In his next over, Bajji had Moeen Ali, in at number three, stepping away to leg to try and force square – and again, turn and bounce surprised the batsman into popping up the most comedic of return catches.
Dhoni had Bajji bowl out his allotted four – and in his fourth over, the offie effectively ended the match as a contest. AB de Villiers swept the first ball high to square where Imran Tahir badly misjudged the flight, over-ran the ball and dropped the sort of catch that should have been held at this level. Off the very next ball, AB went for a heave, the ball stopped on the wicket and turned into him, cramping him for room. Jadeja ran in and dived headlong to hold, and both of RCB’s iconic players were back in the hut thanks to Bhajji. Enough, you thought, for a fine night’s work.
Out walked Shimron Hetmeyer, a player of proven ability to go big against spin. Off the last ball of that over, he pushed the ball straight to Suresh Raina at cover and set off for a run that belonged in the realm of fiction. Raina attacked the ball and underarmed it over the stumps to Dhoni to do his thing. When Bajji took his cap from the umpire at the end of his spell, RCB was 40-4 and done, with just the dusting left to do.
Raina replaced Chahar who had done his bit with four tight overs for just 17 runs. Tahir replaced Bajji, and struck with his second ball, the loop and turn finding Shivam Dube’s edge into Watson’s hands at slip.
More Dhoni: he replaced Raina, after just one over, with Ravi Jadeja who, with his third ball, found de Grandhomme’s edge into Dhoni’s gloves.
There was one more Dhoni story waiting to be told. In his second over, Tahir pushed a googly quicker through the air. The ball hit Navdeep Saini on the pad, and Dhoni appealed instantly for the LBW. The umpire turned it down; Dhoni called for the review; the replay showed an edge onto the pad – and it also showed that Watson had taken the edge clean and low at slip. Another wicket, and another gratuitous coat of gilt added to the Dhoni legend.
In a game of this kind, to describe each dismissal is both tedious and unnecessary. All you really need to know is that RCB were 50 for six at the end of 10.3 overs; the fat lady was whistling louder than the CSK fans who had turned the stadium into a sea of yellow, and all that remained was to complete the formalities.
RCB gave it a good go in a defense of 70 on a track that would have made 120 a tough chase, pairing Chahal and Moeen in the powerplays – and even turning the screws at one point with a slip and leg slip for Moeen – to CSK to just 16/1 in the first six overs.
The one wicket fell to a Chahal beauty that hit off, straightened past the edge of Watson’s defensive bat and knocked back off stump. It could have been two down if Umesh Yadav, running in off the square leg boundary, had held on to a top-edged slog sweep off Moeen.
CSK, predictably, walked the dog home without too much trouble. That it took them 17.4 overs to seal the deal, for the loss of Watson, Rayudu and Raina against an attack that had no quality spin to call on once Chahal (1 for six in four overs) and Moeen (19 for 1 in four) were done, is a testament to the nature of the wicket.
RCB has now lost the last seven matches it has played at the MAC; the only time it won here was back in 2008, about three months before a certain Virat Kohli made his India debut.
A thought to leave you with: If the wicket is this slow in the first game of this tournament, what do you suppose it will play like as the hot Chennai sun bakes it over the next few weeks and leeches it of any notional life there is in it?