Monday, 7 March 2016

Asia Cup trophy 'special' for Dhoni

"It's a special win."
MS Dhoni is not often prone to such grandiose statements, least of all in front of a cadre of journalists searching for big, bold headlines and hashtaggable quotes. He even confessed to changing the speech he had cooked up for a function at the Indian High Comission last Sunday upon hearing the media would also be present. So when a man who measures his words so carefully felt the Asia Cup "was an important one to win", you get curious.
On the surface, it doesn't look particularly startling. An eight-wicket victory in a rain-curtailed game where India were chasing 121 in 15 overs. It was their sixth on the trot, meaning they were in form, and everyone from the opposition captain to umpteen cricket experts had tagged them as the favourites. India were ranked No. 1. Bangladesh were at No. 10. Things merely panned out to establish that, right?
Sure. If Twenty20 cricket cowed down to logic like that.
Dhoni seemed acutely aware of the format's penchant to make anything happen and he worked tirelessly to ensure he wasn't caught off guard. He had assessed this to be the "best batting wicket in the tournament", but keeping the runs down was crucial because "it is a knockout game. If it's an off day for you, you're completely out and you have to start all over again."
Going back to the drawing board with a World T20 waiting for them when they return home was not an option. So Dhoni was adamant to stay ahead of the game. He brought Ashwin on for the first over to perhaps see if the ball turning away from the left-handers could offer India an edge. It didn't so he was quick to bring on Ashish Nehra and Jasprit Bumrah, who have been absolute nuisances to opening batsmen since the start of the year. Soumya Sarkar fell in the fourth over, Tamim Iqbal followed him in the fifth.
Dhoni drew Ashwin out of his sleeve again the minute the Powerplay was done, but that also meant he had only one over left from each of his three lead bowlers for the rest of the innings.
He kept Bumrah for the final over - which yielded only seven runs - knocked Nehra's quota off in the 13th so he needn't feel too much pressure on the one day he didn't seem at his best and sprung Ashwin on Shakib Al Hasan in the 10th after the batsman had crashed Hardik Pandya's pace for a brace of boundaries in the eighth. A lazy sweep resulted in a top-edge and short fine leg was perfectly placed.

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