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MS Dhoni and the art of finishing!

As cricket lovers were still savouring the wondrous debut exploits of Australian No 11 Ashton Agar, little did they envisage that there was more wonder in store later in the day — far away in the West Indies where India played Sri Lanka in the tri-series final at Queen’s Park Oval in Trinidad.

The Indian team
The Indian team celebrates after winning the tri-nation series final on Thursday. Pic/AFP.

Shrugging off his hamstring injury which kept him out of the series after the first game against the hosts, Dhoni played the all-important final and appeared to be heading towards a no-win situation when India required 15 runs in the final over to scrape home by one wicket. Pacer Shaminda Eranga, who had sent back in-form batsmen Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli earlier in the innings faced up to Dhoni, the greatest finisher in one-day cricket.

MS Dhoni
MS Dhoni smashes one into the stands during the last over of the tri-series final vs Sri Lanka. Pic/AFP.

First up was a delivery that Dhoni found too far away from his bat and failed to connect. That ball proved to be the last one he missed because what followed was 6, 4 and 6 again. Game over. India wins by one wicket and Ishant Sharma at the other end has just witnessed a cocktail of magic and mastery of the highest.

Indeed, Dhoni is king of cool.

Only a few hours ago, Sri Lanka were on the ascendancy at 171 for three in 38 overs. But India had done well to bowl out the islanders for 201 in the penultimate over. Considering the kind of form his batsmen were blessed with, Dhoni may have thought that he had finished his job for the series. Wrong!

Rangana Herath, who seems to be relishing his opportunities in the post-Muralitharan era, accounted for Dinesh Karthik (23 off 37 balls) and opener Rohit Sharma (top scorer with 58 off 89 balls). That’s when Dhoni walked into battle. His heart must have skipped a beat when Herath trapped Chennai Super Kings’ teammates Ravindra Jadeja and R Ashwin. And the optimist in him would have taken a beating through the dismissals of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Vinay Kumar.

But Dhoni is a great believer in the adage ‘it’s never over until the fat lady sings.’ He nursed Ishant for more than two overs and when he managed to get strike for the final over, he was like a hungry leopard who finally sighted his prey, never mind if it appeared out of reach. ‘Have bat, will hit’ could well be an option for Dhoni to inscribe as the title to his autobiography.

Along with his stupendous connecting powers, he has developed into a go-to man in a crisis. Dhoni seems to have the broadest and meanest bat in the game. But with that he has the pluck and luck. Remember, old timers never tire from saying that you make your own luck.

The Sri Lankans paid the price. Once again, after the 2011 World Cup final at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai where Dhoni’s six inspired headline writers to connect it to that famous song Sealed with a Kiss.

Dhoni sealed it with a six in Trinidad as well — on July 11, when Agar nearly made history as a No 11 batsman at Trent Bridge; the same day when Don Bradman became the first man to score a triple hundred in a day at Leeds in 1930.

Doubtless, there are cricket lovers around who will say to themselves, ‘I missed Bradman, but I’ve seen Dhoni.’

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