A game that could have marked a fairytale comeback for Yuvraj Singh ended in the disappointment of a defeat by the smallest of margins. Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s patented approach of leaving it late backfired on this occasion. And it’s only fair to say that perhaps it’s time he reviews his strategy.
Nishad Pai Vaidya discusses Dhoni’s game plan, Kohli’s imperious touch and Yuvraj’s emotional return.
A game that marked an emotional return for Yuvraj Singh ended in the most anti-climactic fashion – a one-run defeat for India. With India cruising in pursuit of 168 and the comeback man showing glimpses of his old form – an Indian win looked a foregone conclusion. However, the determined Kiwis hung on to upset India’s calculations. James Franklin and Jacob Oram strangled India’s dangerous batsmen with nagging strategy of mixing them up to script a remarkable comeback. Through all that, Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s performance was one that surprised one and all as the renowned finisher’s famed strategy of taking the game till the end backfired.
Going into the last over, India needed 13 runs to seal a victory – a manageable task one would say in the modern era. The equation also rekindled memories of a game India played earlier this year – against Australia at the Adelaide Oval during the tri-series. It was a sense of déjà vu as Dhoni nudged and took singles even as the asking rate increased. Dhoni smashed a huge six to clear one of the longest boundaries in world cricket – a hit that all but sealed India’s triumph. This time around, the script didn’t pan out the way Dhoni would have wanted.
On a number of occasions, Dhoni’s Midas touch has battled the odds and pulled rabbits out of hats. Invariably, his brave and often unconventional tactics worked in India’s favour. Some called it good luck, but it was a culmination of a fearless thought process and the will to try different things to obtain the desired result. When they work, the world heaps praises on him, but when they backfire – he is subjected to severe criticism.
Maybe, it’s time Dhoni revisits his strategy of taking the run-chase to the very end. While it makes an interesting game for the spectators, it certainly risks India’s position. On Twitter, Sanjay Manjrekar aptly described Dhoni’s innings at Chennai as, “It's one of those times when you play with fire and get your hands burnt.”
If Dhoni can show a wee bit urgency in the overs leading up to the last, things would be a lot more easier. He is a fantastic finisher in the one-day game and it is just one of those occasions where he couldn’t pull it off.
Dhoni’s needs to up his strike-rate in T20 Internationals
A very surprising fact is that Dhoni’s strike-rate in T20 internationals is only 109.51 compared to his overall (T20) figure of 129.18. For some reason, he hasn’t been as belligerent in the shortest format for India. There have been a few aggressive knocks that boasted of a fantastic strike-rate, but they have been few and far in between. He is the kind of a player you would expect to be in his zone in the shortest format and he needs to improve his strike-rate in the upcoming T20 fixtures for India.
India would be gutted with the defeat as the game seemed very much in their pocket. However, the splendid effort by Virat Kohli and a good comeback by Yuvraj would be the biggest positives to emerge from this game. Irfan Pathan and Zaheer Khan were good with the ball upfront and Lakshmipathy Balaji put in a stable performance. Thus, going into Sri Lanka, this defeat wouldn’t disturb them too much, as only the final polish was missing.
Kohli has been in imperious touch, regardless of the format. As one of the commentators pointed out, it is truly phenomenal that he is scoring runs across the three versions – Tests, One-Day Internationals and T20Is. He is in that phase where he cannot take a wrong step as the confidence is good and the body is responding brilliantly. His movements at the crease were a joy to watch as he was well-balanced and assured at every stage of his knock.
The demands of the various formats differ, but what is good to see is that Kohli doesn’t try too many things. He plays by the book and doesn’t get too far ahead of himself by attempting extravagant strokes. To disturb the rhythm of the spinners, he used his feet well and got to the pitch of the ball. His stroke-play through the off-side in particular was delightful to watch as the ball raced to the boundary with minimal effort. India would hope and pray he carries this form to Sri Lanka as their chances would depend on their new-found mainstay.
The whole contest was built up as Yuvraj’s redemption and a climax to his truly remarkable story. When he was given a life early in his innings, one got the feeling that the day was made for him. It would have been an even greater story had he carted a six in the last over to win India the game, but fairytales aren’t as frequent as one would like. Nevertheless, to see Yuvraj hit those two sixes with his typical swagger was most heartening. He was a little edgy early on, but picked up as his innings progressed.
The only concern surrounding Yuvraj was that he looked a little short of energy towards the end. The long lay-off would have certainly affected his stamina and overall strength. It would take him sometime to regain his strength, but if his knock is anything to go by – he is making rapid strides towards that aim. When one reviews Yuvraj’s return, the result invariably gets overshadowed as he has won a battle much larger than the one on the field of play. Nevertheless, a win would have given him the most satisfaction – something he would have wait for some time.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst for the site’s YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar's dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_44)