Get the app

Dhoni Had Things Under Control Till That Fateful Last over

India lacked depth of experience, yet had enough talent. What was missing was a well-thought out strategy of keeping the asking rate within reach, enough wickets in hand and when to launch a frontal attack.

Ayaz Memon |June 19, 2016, 6:54 PM IST
Dhoni Had Things Under Control Till That Fateful Last over

Don’t buy the excuse that India lost the first T20 match against Zimbabwe because they were playing with a B team. It is lame and, in the context of how the match transpired, an insult to the home team’s bubbly and determined performance.

Of course the Indian team has a lot of inexperienced players. So too does Zimbabwe. Perhaps more so considering that the Indian domestic structure – which includes the IPL – is so much more enriching even for young players.

It is also pertinent to remember that India had made a 3-0 sweep of the ODI series before the T20 matches commenced. The psychological advantage was entirely with India, the greater pressure was completely on Zimbabwe.

That the T20 format frequently produces tospy-turvy results can be a possible reason for India’s defeat, yet still not the most credible one. For most of the match, India looked in control, but lost the plot in crunch situations.

This happened twice: when bowling in the death overs, and then batting in the finals overs of the run chase. In both instances, India were found wanting. The bowlers were profligate, the batsmen – and this included the hugely experienced Dhoni – inexplicably high strung.

Elton Chigumbura played a superb hand to take his team to 170 with some bold and dramatic late-order hitting. The bowlers, perhaps thinking they would clean up the lower order as easily as they had done in the ODIs, lapsed in control and paid a heavy price.

Chasing 171 is not easy against any opponents, but the pitch did not hold any terrors. India lacked depth of experience, yet had enough talent. What was missing was a well-thought out strategy of keeping the asking rate within reach, enough wickets in hand and when to launch a frontal attack.

As in the bowling, I think the Indian batting faltered because of overconfidence. Rash shots cost well-set batsmen their wickets, and when it boiled down to an all-or-nothing situation in the death overs, they were inexplicably choked for big strokes by some spirited bowling and brilliant fielding.

The presence of Dhoni in the middle through the last eight overs only heightens the agony for India. No stranger to such high pressure situations, it seemed he had things under control, till the fateful last over.

Dhoni struck up a fine 53 run partnership with Manish Pandey to stem the growing crisis, followed by 21 runs with Axar Patel which brought the team to the doorstep of victory. Then came the stunning anti-climax.

The last-over stumble, in which India failed to score eight runs, put Dhoni’s own performance under sharp scrutiny. Over the past few months, his performance as a strong `finisher’ hasn’t quite justified his massive reputation.

Saturday’s match was an example of that. His strike prowess can’t be expected to be what it was 5-6 years back, and he prefers nowadays to keep the big shots till the very end.

Tactically, playing second fiddle to Pandey and even Axar was sensible to the extent that he was present till the end and, with hard running between the wickets, had ensured that the asking rate had not climbed up substantially.

But the true worth of strategies can only be measured by end results. In this aspect, Dhoni bombed. In the final over, he surrendered the strike first ball, couldn’t get it back for two more deliveries, and with 4 needed off the last delivery, could not produce the winning stroke.

I am loathe to be overly critical of a player or team after a setback in a close contest. This could be a one-off thing – but only if India have heeded the lessons from the first match.

The bowling and batting needs to tighten up. The shorter the format, the more level the playing field, so Zimbabwe, who lost the ODIs so easily, are no pushovers in T20.

Clearly also, India are missing a late order big-hitter, like Chigumbura. Dhoni used to be that. I say this in the past tense with some reservation because I don’t believe, as some critics argue, he is a spent force.

I think the defeat would have stung the Indian captain, more so because he was in the thick of things. Dhoni knows he could have been the decisive influence in his team’s fortunes. He has two more matches on this tour to show he is still that.

Team Rankings

Rank Team Points Rating
1 India 5046 120
2 Australia 4320 108
3 England 5253 105
4 New Zealand 3449 105
5 South Africa 3537 98
see more
Rank Team Points Rating
1 England 6745 125
2 India 7748 121
3 New Zealand 4837 112
4 South Africa 5193 110
5 Australia 5854 110
see more
Rank Team Points Rating
1 Pakistan 8366 270
2 Australia 6986 269
3 England 5568 265
4 South Africa 4720 262
5 India 10645 260
see more