Rishabh Pant and MS Dhoni
Rishabh Pant (L) and MS Dhoni after guiding India to series-levelling win (AFP Photo)

Yesterday when I saw Mahendra Singh Dhoni talking to Rishabh Pant after every delivery, suddenly a scene from Satyajit Ray’s Sonar Kella (The Golden Fortress) came back to my mind.

Pardon me for taking a bit of liberty for all those who haven’t grown on a staple diet of Ray classics like we Bengalis have. Allow me to get the connect for you.

Sonar Kella is a story of quintessential Bengali sleuth Felu da or Pradosh Mitter, whose intelligence, knowledge and magnetic persona is second to none. Now in Sonar Kella there is a scene where Felu da‘s cousin Topse (the ‘Bong Watson’) is set to accompany him to Rajasthan on an investigative journey. But Topse’s mom is not convinced and complaints: “My son has school and exams”. Topse’s father’s replied with an iconic one liner: “Is there a teacher in his school who is better than Felu?”

That scene kept coming back and I couldn’t help but think, “Is there a better teacher than MS Dhoni for a young upstart who is as hungry to win difficult games for India?”

No disrespect to the legendary Delhi coach Tarak Sinha, who has nurtured Rishabh, but when it comes to aspects like mindset, knowing what not to do under pressure, no amount of coaching in the nets can help. It can only be learnt in match situations and who better than MSD.

I am a big Rishabh and an even bigger Dhoni fan. Therefore, watching Rishabh finish the match with a lot of panache in presence of Dhoni for me was like symbolic handing over the baton. It was a wonderful sight to behold.

When Vijay Shankar got out, for a fleeting moment, my initial thought was that let Krunal Pandya be sent in. Krunal has a reputation of playing big shots and has shown his mettle for Mumbai Indians on many occasions. But during those overs when Rishabh-Dhoni were at the crease, it felt so right.

But the highlight for me was the younger members of the team rising to the occasion. It hasn’t been easy for Khaleel Ahmed in the past month, be it in Australia or New Zealand. It was heartening to see him come back stronger.

The performer of the day has to be Krunal. I have said this before and I would repeat, he’s a very good cricketer especially in white-ball cricket.

Even though he was adjudged ‘Player of the Match’ because of his bowling, I still feel he’s a batsman who can bowl. I won’t be too surprised to see him become a regular part of the ODI set-up, post World Cup. He can also bat in the top-five, he’s more than a handy bowler but it’s his cricketing IQ, which has impressed me the most. His ability to adapt to conditions and situations gives him the edge.

No amount of praise is enough for the peerless Rohit Sharma, who has now reached the top of the pile in T20Is. It is not at all a surprise the way he’s been in white-ball cricket in the recent past.

It was another important innings from him, giving the start India needed. The ground dimension of Eden Park also kind of helped his style of play. With longer side and shorter straight boundaries, it is only natural for the bowlers to bowl on the shorter side and that plays into Rohit’s strengths.

The other notable incident in the second T20I was Daryl Mitchell’s horrendous leg before decision. Mitchell clearly had edged it on to his pad, but the on-field umpire made a mistake, that is usual and that’s the reason DRS was introduced.

But what I find hard to digest was what happened later. The inside edge was evident on the replays and the Hotspot too suggested the same. It’s the snicko meter which did not show a spike at the right moment. That is a technical reason being the pics lost between frames.

DRS has its protocol and following that is understandable but technology was introduced to help umpires, not take over from them and most importantly to make the correct call. Even though snicko didn’t show the spike, I believe the third umpire should have used some common sense and not blindly follow protocols.

At last, I had written in my previous article about not agreeing with the playing XI. And would like to be consistent with my stand. I still don’t believe this is the best XI that India are playing.

Kuldeep Yadav could be an obvious choice if the team management wants to play another bowler in the third T20I. Looking at the ground dimensions and the pitch, historically and statistically, Hamilton has been a better ground for the fast bowlers.

It’s also been a high scoring venue. Will all these factors encourage the management to change the winning combination for the series decider and play an extra bowler? Looks unlikely but I surely would like to see that happen.