Delhi win the match, Dhoni remains king of hearts

MS Dhoni vs DC
MS Dhoni vs DC (PC: IPL)

For those four overs, the result became irrelevant. The scoreboard conformed to Neville Cardus’s description of the arid numbers. The roof of the ACA-VDCA Stadium in Vizag was blown off. ‘Mahi maar raha hai’ became the theme. Everything else was incidental.

Those who turned up at the ground got a rare opportunity to watch MS Dhoni bat, and they became delirious. Delhi Capitals were under the assumption that they were playing a home game. They were horribly wrong. Yellow was the colour in the stands and ‘Dhoni, Dhoni’ chants were loud and spontaneous. A fan raised a poster that said: “Dhoni, I have come from the UK to watch you.”

By the 17th over, during Chennai Super Kings’ chase, the game was almost gone for the visitors. They needed 72 runs from 23 balls to pull off a heist. The Dhoni of yore has done it many times. But he is now 42 years old, in the late autumn of his career. But lo and behold, he started off with a four against Mukesh Kumar. Thala boom! He was batting in a competitive game after a gap of one year. Is he human?

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MS Dhoni in action
MS Dhoni in action (PC: X)

The next ball went straight to Khaleel Ahmed at backward point, but clearly unnerved by the stadium atmosphere, the fielder dropped it. The famous WG Grace quote came to mind: “They came to see me bat, not you…” The final ball of that over was bludgeoned through the covers; a wide yorker that just missed the mark. Dhoni still has it, if the ball is in his range.

Nearly two decades ago, at this very venue, Dhoni, long mane and all, walked out at No. 3 and pummelled a 123-ball 148 against Pakistan – his first international century. These days, him coming out to bat is a rarity. He keeps himself at No. 8 – why is he batting so low by the way – and given CSK’s batting strength, he is usually not required to turn up. Watching him play as a wicketkeeper in a season that looks like his farewell is attractive enough for the fans to throng the stadiums. Watching him bat is a double whammy.

In the end, his 16-ball 37 not out, which had four fours and three sixes, couldn’t take CSK over the line. The defending champions probably lost the game long before Dhoni came to the crease. After back-to-back losses, Capitals won their first game in this year’s IPL and the victory margin, 20 runs, was pretty handsome by T20 standards. Chasing 192 for victory, CSK finished on 171-6. But, who cared?

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