NORTH SOUND (ANTIGUA) : After his Man-of-the-Match innings on Friday, MS Dhoni called himself ‘old wine’ when asked if he is getting better with age.
However, his innings in the third ODI victory against West Indies was anything but typically his.
It wasn’t fluent for a large part, primarily because of the two-paced and uneven wicket as well, and because of the pressure India found themselves in after the loss of early wickets.
Except for some of the shots later on, including the two sixes off Jason Holder when he swivelled to make room, the entire knock looked more of a struggle.
He survived twice in the 39th over due to lacklustre fielding by West Indies, who are fast gaining the reputation of being either very good or too bad in their efforts.
But Dhoni held on thanks to his experience, and more importantly, let Kedar Jadhav be himself and play his shots.
“I think it was the nature of the wicket, variable bounce, and at times pace. It was important to have a partnership at that stage. In my mind I had 250, and we got there,” said the former India skipper after the match.
Till the time the set opener Ajinkya Rahane was there, Dhoni chanced his arm, but once the Mumbai batsman was dismissed, the onus fell on him to see the innings through, which he eventually did in the company of Jadhav.
His 78 not out off 79 balls proved to be gold eventually. “Our top-order has been doing the bulk of the scoring in the last one, one-and-a-half years, so it felt good to get an opportunity and score runs.”
Rahane acknowledged the contribution made by Dhoni. India, as of now, has no dearth of players with leadership qualities. Skipper Virat Kohli has MS Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh to fall back on while Rahane, who was on the bench for the Champions Trophy before this series, provides inputs. He is the Test vicecaptain.
“We are lucky to have him, the kind of player he is, the knowledge of the game he has, it is very easy for Virat to anytime go up to him and ask for suggestion,” said Rahane.
“Right now my focus is to do well. (But yes) I am in the Test team as vice-captain, so I do give inputs to Virat and Mahi bhai after reading the game.”
Dhoni is important for a seamless transition of leadership and it is evident as he seems to have a say in setting the field as well.
In the absence of a head coach, Dhoni’s role seems to have become more important.
At the nets, Dhoni gives throwdowns to batsmen, especially to Kohli, giving him the lengths he wants, and also stands at the far end, guiding the bowlers.
To Dhoni’s credit, he has quietly moved into the role, making himself heard without forcing his opinions. As India prepare the team for the 2019 World Cup, it’ll be important that Dhoni, who is contributing much more than through his batting and keeping, stays along. And Virat knows and acknowledges that.