After playing a crucial role against Zimbabwe on Saturday, skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni reveals how he gets India over the line in tense situations
Auckland: Tinashe Panyangara got a taste of what it would have felt to be in the shoes of Nuwan Kulasekara, who was hit by Mahendra Singh Dhoni for a six on April 2, four summers ago at the Wankhede Singh as India beat Sri Lanka to clinch the 2011 World Cup.
MS Dhoni watches the ball as he hits the winning six in Eden Park at Auckland on Saturday. Pic:AP/PTI
On Saturday, against Zimbabwe, Dhoni smashed Panyangara for the maximum as India recorded its highest ever World Cup chase — 288 (Wankhede chase was 275) — in what was an inconsequential Group 'B' match at Eden Park.
The significance of the two games are not similar, even the stroke executed by Dhoni was different — a swipe over long-on then and a pull over backward square here — but the situation was similar. In both instances, India had lost their top order in a huff (3-114 in 2011 & 4-92 here) and the onus of delivering the goods lied on Dhoni's broad shoulders.
And on both occasions, he delivered to the T. There have been plenty of instances when Dhoni has seen India across the finishline — 38 times he's been unbeaten therein — taking his average in successful chases to 109.19 So how does MSD, do it so easily and so often?
'Need to reduce margin'
"It's important to break the number of runs into small targets. So, you can say, okay in the next two or three overs, let's look for 10 runs or 15 runs or even eight runs if someone is bowling really well. You fix targets for the next two or three overs where you want to be.
It's important to reduce the margin (between number of deliveries and number of runs). If you are matching that, you are in a good position, and then you have to see which bowlers are supposed to bowl, if you can target him or if you're acing the shorter end (of the boundary).
So it's a mixture of everything. It sounds very complex, but when you are in those circumstances, it works out. It's the brain that keeps working," Dhoni, who scored 85 not out as India beat Zimbabwe by six wickets, said at the post-match press conference on Saturday.
The 33-year-old is known for his big shots, but stressed on the importance of playing watchfully in chasing situations. "You have to make sure you go after the loose deliveries for preferably boundaries because there are less risks involved. You can't always rely on the big shots. The reason being, you get sixes and boundaries playing big shots, but if you are batting at No 6, you know there's no batsman after you and that puts pressure.
The top one, two or three, can play their big shots because they know there are five batsmen behind them. But when you go in at 6 or 7, you have to think three times before you play the big shot," he said. It' a pressure cooker situation alright, and for India's sake, Mr Cool Dhoni will do well to continue refraining from boiling over.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni's average in 82 matches that India have won chasing. He remained unbeaten on 38 occasions
Number of runs scored by MS Dhoni batting at No 5 & 6. Here, he averages 49.23