PART 2 (if you missed part 1 you can read it here)
B: With pleasure. Dhoni’s modus operandi in chases is to take the game as deep as possible. He has unbelievable restraint when it comes to protecting his wicket. Therefore, he won’t play any risky shots until it is absolutely necessary. His aim is to protect his wicket until as late as possible and then go for the jugular. The calmness to not let the mounting required run rate bother him coupled with the self-belief to push the NOS button in the last couple of overs is frankly, enviable. There is no doubt that this game plan is effective, but you have to agree this is an extremely unique way of dealing with pressure. It is the opposite of a responsible run chase, in the conventional sense. In any chase, you want the required run rate to not be insurmountable so that even if you lose wickets, the incoming batsman have some buffer to feel their way into the chase instead of being forced to hit from ball one. It is an extremely risky tactic, but Dhoni’s resume is littered with executing run chases right down to the wire. When you are producing results, nobody bothers with how the result was obtained.
Except, now he is not. Now he cannot let the required run rate climb up to 18 and then bail the team out with his hitting. His hitting ability was his get-out-of-jail-free card and sadly, he doesn’t hold that card anymore. Despite this, he hasn’t changed tact. For the longest time, I believed Dhoni’s greatest trait was not his captaincy or his batting or his cricketing brain … it was his self-awareness. He was acutely aware of his and his team’s strengths and played accordingly. Ironically, the most glaring aspect of his batting is the lack of self-awareness. His ego is writing cheques his body can’t cash.
H: Really? You are going to quote Top Gun to me? And ego? MSD doesn’t have an egotistical bone in his body. He has never played for himself. He has always prioritized the team’s needs over his own.
B: We are talking team needs now? Is that why Ruturaj Gaekwad didn’t play from Game 1 instead of forcing himself into the team when it was too late to make a playoff push? Is that why the obviously-past-his-prime Dwayne Bravo is included in the same XI as his younger, fitter version Sam Curran? Is that why Shane Watson, who doesn’t bowl anymore and is hit-and miss with the bat gets picked every game? Is that why your leading wicket-taker from last IPL, Imran Tahir has hardly had a bowl in the tournament? Is that why Piyush Chawla and Kedar Jadhav are in the team over younger players with more to prove?
H: He didn’t select them himself, there are other people involved in making those decisions in the franchise. Also, it isn’t his fault that CSK’s average age is 30+. He is making the best out of the oldest team in the IPL. The fact that CSK was only a win or 2 away from qualifying for the playoffs is a testament to Dhoni’s ability to turn a bunch of has-beens into …
B: Into what? Maybe-beens? You crack me up! If you think Dhoni is not in charge of every personnel decision that CSK makes, you are as naïve as those crazy Dhoni fanboys who claim he is a better wicketkeeper than Wriddhiman Saha!
H: That’s it. That’s the last straw. How dare you go after his wicket-keeping? MS didn’t acquire ‘The Fastest Hands in the East’ title without reason. His reflexes behind the stumps are second to none. Saha has never come close to emulating Dhoni’s dominance behind the stumps.
B: Look, I concede Dhoni is special when it comes to stumping. But there is more to wicket-keeping than that. Saha is a better all-round keeper, maybe the best in the world. Remember that pink ball test against Bangladesh when he caught everything despite all that double swing? Saha was out of this world. He was the MVP in the outfield. And he wasn’t too shabby when he came up behind the stumps for spin either. Saha is objectively a better keeper than Dhoni.
H: Why are we arguing whether Saha is better than Dhoni or not? He has retired from international cricket. It’s all Saha now. Enjoy him. Let’s talk about CSK. Is there a better alternative behind the stumps than Dhoni?
B: Well, CSK has never really considered an alternative to Dhoni behind the stumps, so that question is moot. There is obviously nobody in the squad who is a better keeper than Dhoni. But that still doesn’t justify why CSK has not groomed any keepers to take over after Dhoni departs, especially when his departure is now a reality that they have to seriously consider and plan for.
H: You are being too harsh for no good reason. He is still a world-class keeper who has shown no real signs of decline in that department.
B: Not for nothing, but Dhoni only had one stumping in this edition of IPL, his joint-lowest. He has not effected less than 3 stumpings since 2015.
H: C’mon! Stumpings are extremely variable and not at all representative of form. Unless corroborated by a substantial decline in overall stats, I will choose to ignore this.
B: Speaking of which, here are Dhoni’s stats from this season. Maybe they will change your mind..
- Runs Scored = 200 in 14 matches (lowest ever in 11 seasons for CSK);
- Highest Score = 47* (lowest ever in 11 seasons for CSK);
- Average = 25.00 (lowest ever in 11 seasons for CSK);
- Strike Rate = 116.27 (lowest ever in 11 seasons for CSK);
- 100 / 50 = 0 / 0 (lowest ever in 11 seasons for CSK);
- 4s = 16 (lowest ever in 11 seasons for CSK);
- 6s = 7 (lowest ever in 11 seasons for CSK)
“Sentimental value nahi, real value dekho darling!” – (fictional) Harshad Mehta, Scam 1992
H: Enough with your quotes. I know he isn’t the same batsman anymore, but he is CSK’s icon, in more ways than one. He is the best captain in the IPL, bar none. He has been foremost responsible for establishing a winning culture in the dressing room. For any young Indian cricketer, it would be a dream to learn from him.
B: Except he hasn’t shown much faith in the youngsters as of late, has he?
H: Again with his team selection. Look man, you can reason with me all you want.. but you are not going to convince me that Dhoni should retire. He is a generational superstar. Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev, Sachin Tendulkar and then Dhoni. He belongs to that cadre of player, so it isn’t as simple as dropping a player who isn’t performing up to his standards. He is, for all intents and purposes, un-droppable. Instead, he gets to decide when he wants to hang it up, if he wants to hang it up.
B: I get it. I don’t agree with it, but I get it. It is tough to retire at the right time. What makes these kind of players champions is their self-belief. In his heart of hearts, I think Dhoni still believes that he can contribute to his team like he once did. And I don’t blame him for that. Who is going to tell him he can’t?
H: Who are we to decide what he deserves or doesn’t. Hasn’t he done enough for CSK for him to call his own shots?
B: No player is bigger than the team (or the franchise in this instance) …
H: But what if a player made the franchise? Are you telling me the Chicago Bulls would have forced Michael Jordan to retire when he didn’t want to?
B: Umm.. they did.
B: I know, I know. I told you that you wouldn’t like this conversation.