MS Dhoni slammed the fastest fifty in the history of Champions League T20, thereby showing us the glimpses of his precocious hitting talent. Sarang Bhalerao digs deep in the numbers and analyses Dhoni as a Twenty 20 batsman.
On April 23, 2013, M Chinnaswamy Stadium was witnessing Chris Gayle’s pyrotechnics — the kind of batting hitherto unseen. Pune Warriors were bleeding and Gayle was compiling one of the stupendous knocks ever seen in the shortest format of the game. His innings of 175 off 66 balls remains the benchmark for the kin of aggression and pristine hitting.
Just after Gayle’s compelling knock, this person sent a tweet which said: “Life is all about taking the right decision, seeing Gayle bat today I think I took the right decision of being a wicket keeper.” On Friday, the Sunrisers Hyderabad bowlers would have contemplated if they had indeed taken the right decision to be the bowlers seeing the manner in which MS Dhoni was carting them.
It was his Mohawk hairstyle that captured the attention. Dhoni ensured that he grabbed the headlines with his cricketing exploits. When he walked out in the centre Chennai Super Kings were 115 for three in the 15th over. A score of around 170 seemed on the cards. But alas, did you factor in Dhoni’s aggression? Come the second ball of his innings and JP Duminy was launched straight down the ground for a huge six. What could be the projected score — around 175-180. Then came a quiet 10-run over from Ishant Sharma. Dale Steyn’s 17th over was a five-run over, which included a dot ball bowled to Dhoni. At the end of 17 overs, Chennai were 141 for three with Suresh Raina batting on 84 and Dhoni unbeaten on 11 off seven deliveries.
What followed in the 18th over, reinforces the belief that ‘Dhoni is something special’. Here’s a bowler: Thisara Perera — a death bowler — Sri Lankan all-rounder who was reduced to a non-entity. The first ball was a leg-side wide — nerves you may call. The first legitimate delivery was a length ball — just the kind of delivery Dhoni loves to hammer and he did just that. The ball soared over the sightscreen which infused life in Ranchi crowd. Perera’s follow-up delivery was a wide which indicated that his mind was cluttered with self-doubt. He was befuddled, wary of Dhoni. Captain cool sensed that the bowler is under pressure , so he was not going to hold back. The second delivery was a mistimed shot which was misfielded by Ishant at mid-wicket, which resulted in a couple of runs. In hindsight, if Ishant would have kept it to one, who knows probably Hyderabad would have won the game.
The next four deliveries showed how Perera was shaken by Dhoni’s initial onslaught. The Sri Lankan bowler kept missing the length and Dhoni kept hitting the deliveries over the rope — in the stands. The third delivery was a full-toss, a kind of succour ball which was deposited over fine-leg. The fourth ball was again on the length — Perera yet again missed the yorker length — Dhoni played a slice which went over point for a six.
The fifth delivery was hit over long-on off a friendly length delivery which was another “help yourself” delivery. The carnage mesmerised the crowd, who probably must have recorded highest decibel levels seeing the home boy toying with the bowling. By the time the sixth ball was cut over third-man for a six, Dhoni had made a mockery of the projected score. Chennai were 175 at the end of 18 overs. Perera went for 60 off his three overs. The 34-run over was the most expensive in the tournament history. Dhoni was batting on 43 off 13 deliveries with six sixes.
In the last six deliveries, Dhoni scored only 20 runs (pun intended). He brought his half century courtesy two runs to long-on. That 16-ball effort was the fastest half-century in the history of the tournament. He celebrated the feat by routing Darren Sammy for a couple of sixes on the off-side. His 19-ball 63 took the score to an imposing 202 for four — changing the game on its head in a matter of 20 minutes.
Dhoni as a T20I batsman
Over the years, Dhoni has been curbing his natural instincts for the larger good of the team, taking the mantle of responsibility. Against Sunrisers, Dhoni went hammer and tongs because Dwayne Bravo and Albie Morkel were still to follow. There was no pressure of getting out. For India, Dhoni’s records in T20 International have been modest.
Let’s analyse Dhoni’s record in T20I
Dhoni’s highest score is unbeaten 48 against Australia at Melbourne in 2012. He has batted 25 times at No 5 and No 6. Quite often he takes the role of a finisher and does not attack right from the outset.
He has been most successful at No 6 where he has scored 277 runs at an average of nearly 40.
If you compare Dhoni’s record for India with his IPL record you will find a lot of difference.
Dhoni’s overall strike rate is 141.22 in the Indian Premier League (IPL) compared to 114.9 for India His average is also seven per cent point higher for Chennai than the national team.
Dhoni’s record in CLT20
Dhoni has shown that he can clear the fence at will and it is impossible to stop him when he is on song. The innings is an indication of his precocious hitting talent. Will he take the mantle of the hitter in the limited-overs cricket for India? Or would he want to excel in the role of the finisher?
As the general rule goes: The best batsman in the team has to bat maximum overs. Maybe this innings of 63 might force Dhoni to bat up the order. If he is set then one never knows what he might come up with.
Nothing is impossible for the Ranchi Rambo.
(Sarang Bhalerao hails from a family of doctors, but did his engineering. He then dumped a career in IT with Infosys to follow his heart and passion and became a writer with CricketCountry. A voracious reader, Sarang aspires to beat Google with his knowledge of the game! You can follow him on Twitter here)