It’s that time of the year again: when a certain league wraps Mahendra Singh Dhoni in yellow before jettisoning him to the zenith from where he calls the shots and commands what he wants to achieve. Match by match, innings by innings the zenith keeps getting higher, instilling in his fans a belief that he will emulate the same authority when he dons a different colour at a grander stage – for his country in Blue.
But recent history suggests that that his authority starts fading as soon as the league ends. And, as heart-breaking as it may sound, the story might just repeat itself when India travel to England for ICC World Cup later this year.
Last year, in 2018, while captaining his side to the 3rd IPL title, MSD scored 455 runs in 15 innings at an average of 75.83. With a strike rate of 150.66 and the highest score 79 not out, the numbers would have made any cricketer proud, let alone a man in the twilight of his career.
However, the numbers don’t paint a happy picture when we look at Dhoni’s statistics in India colours post IPL 2018. He played 9 T20Is, scored 173 runs @ 43.25 with a strike rate of just above 122. In ODIs, the strike rate fell down to 74.23 which is fairly poor given his reputation and demands of the modern day game. He did manage an average of 41 in the 23 matches that he played. But one needs to remember the fact that Dhoni has been batting mostly at number four or five in the last few months. That provided him with ample opportunities to better the numbers.
So, what exactly keeps Dhoni from emulating his IPL heroics in the international arena? Pressure can’t be the reason! Time and again, he has proved that beating him in the mental game is close to impossible. His records as a finisher prove he’s got steely nerves. So is it the skill or just the age factor? Or is it a combination of both?
Dhoni has an arc like most cricketers. Bowl him there and he will demolish you to smithereens. But unlike most cricketers these days who find a way out to operate beyond their arc, Dhoni has struggled to do so. He continues to pull well off the back foot, but doing so against the pace of Jaydev Unadkat is fairly easier in comparison to the likes of Rabadas and Starcs.
Hit the deck bowlers with their back of the length deliveries have been troubling him a lot of late. In the IPL, we don’t get to see such lively pitches or the bowlers. Teams due to the limitations of playing only 4 foreign players fail to capitalise on his weakness. It’s not just the three-quarter length, wide Yorkers too were proving to be his nemesis until recently. However, in the past few months, at least intermittently, he’s figured out a way to manage those on good days.
IPL’s a heady cocktail that makes players forget about the sorrows of past. However, it’s a little different this time. India cannot afford to be hungover for long. The World Cup will begin a few weeks later and having unanimously stamped Dhoni’s name as the 1st choice keeper for the world cup, they would want that Dhoni is the same man in Blue that he is in Yellow. His form is what might decide India’s fortune at the mega event. Kohli’s shoulders can’t always burden the weight – as we have started to see for RCB. With his captaincy also under scrutiny, he would anyway be looking towards the World Cup winning skipper for help. How effective and confident are Dhoni’s inputs to him will largely depend on how many runs his ‘Mahi Bhai’ has under the belt.
Australia whitewashed Pakistan in the five match ODI series. The contest was one sided as visitors didn't give any chance to the hosts. More than Australia's victory, the bromance between Adam Zampa and Marcus Stoinis remained the hot topic during the series.
During the second match, both of them were seen showering love on each other. Marcus Stoinis went one step ahead and added stories to his Instagram handle in which Zampa was kissing him and the all-rounder was also enjoying his gesture.
When Stoinis was asked about the bromance, he clarified that they are good mates. “We are good mates, that sort of stuff gets you through long tours and all that sort of thing. A bit of banter, a bit of laugh. You can’t take yourself too seriously. We have got a good bond in the team and there’s a good group,” he was quoted as saying by cricket.com.au.
With Marcus Stoinis joining Royal Challengers Bangalore, Adam Zampa is missing his friend. The Aussie spinner has posted two separate pictures of them taking the shower and posing in same style.
Royal Challengers Bangalore have got off to a poor start in the 12th edition of the IPL. They have lost their first three games and against Chennai and Hyderabad, they suffered huge defeats. RCB have only been competitive once and that was against Mumbai.
Writing his column for the Times of India (TOI), AB de Villiers revealed how he and Virat felt after the shambolic loss at the hands of Sunrisers Hyderabad, “It just so happened that Virat Kohli and I were sitting beside each other on the RCB bus back to the hotel after our emphatic defeat against Sunrisers in Hyderabad. He looked at me. I looked at him. There was nothing to say.
This was not what we expected. We have been together as a squad for more than two weeks now, and we have worked exceptionally hard. Our preparation has been excellent, and the team feels balanced. No question, we should be winning matches. And yet, we are not winning. We’ve played three and lost three, and RCB supporters are rightly concerned by the prospect of another disappointing season.”
AB de Villiers looked at his best against Mumbai at Bangalore but failed to help RCB cross the line. On the other hand, Virat Kohli hasn't been at his best in the first three games. Today, RCB will take on Rajasthan Royals at Jaipur.
After the Cricket World Cup, England and Australia are set to play against each other in the Ashes series. England will be hosting the much awaited Ashes series. At present, Australia have the Ashes urn with them. But, at home, England are a tough nut to crack. But there is a big crack at the top of their batting.
They are facing a headache with the form of their openers – Rory Burns and Keaton Jennings. Star English limited-overs opener, Jason Roy has expressed his desire to feature in Ashes for England.
He said, “There are people that want me to play, people that don’t want me to play. I just want to play to prove it to myself really. To see where I’m at and to see if I can actually do it. You never know what is going to happen but I just want to put the right stepping stones in and make sure that I’m selected, that is the first process.”
Rajasthan Royals all-rounder Ben Stokes has sound warning to his teammates that they can't afford to lose another game after suffering three straight defeats in the ongoing season of the Indian Premier League. He further added there was no point cribbing about the past results and focus on the upcoming games in order to put the campaign back on track.
“Our first three games we got ourselves into a real good position to win all three, and we know it is just (about) winning those crucial moments. (This game) it was the last over and unfortunately we couldn’t cross the line,” said Stokes.
“There is always been one point in the three games were we haven’t been a better team. Losing the first three games you probably would say we can’t (take positives), but we are trying to and there is no point in looking back...Because if we lose 4-5, it’s going to be really tough to come back from that,” he added.
“Hindsight is a wonderful thing, if you look back at it like that. He just takes it deep as he possibly can. He’s a great person to learn from and watch how he goes about his innings whether it’s setting a total or chasing a total.
“Sometimes you got to hold your hand up and say the best players in the world can do that. He certainly showed that.
“Especially when he comes in early, every team knows what he’s going to try and do to start with and we tried to attack him. Getting him out was our main objective. There was a dropped catch which you can’t blame anyone for - that happens - and the ball hitting the stumps and the bails not coming off.”
Dwayne Bravo played a key role in Chennai Super Kings' victory over Rajasthan Royals. With just 12 runs required off 6 balls and Ben Stokes still at the crease, MS Dhoni handed the ball to his most trusted teammate, Dwayne Bravo. The West Indies all-rounder didn't disappoint and successfully defended the score as CSK ended up winning the match by 6 runs.
He dismissed Stokes on the very first ball of the over and then followed it up with wicket of Shreyas Gopal. After the game, Bravo heaped praise on MS Dhoni.
“Feeding off his energy and he also encouraged me to be positive, that is important. I enjoy batting with him because he makes batting so easy. He puts the opposition under so much pressure,” said Bravo.
Dhoni scored 75 runs off 46 balls to take CSK's score past 170. The defending champions were reeling at 27 for three when MS Dhoni came in to bat. He started cautiously to repair the damage but blasted rival bowlers in the final overs. He hit Jaydev Unadkat for 28 runs in the last over to complete Chennai Super Kings’ recovery.
It appears that the Indian Premier League has quickly become a laboratory for experimentation and debate. After cajoling the mind on the issue of mankading, now there is a concern of how much technology will be too much.
Virat Kohli has reasons to be furious. His personal form has failed to show up in the IPL 2019 thus far. The team he leads, the Royal Challengers Bangalore, are a beleaguered franchise at the start of another IPL season. Kohli, otherwise the successful captain of the Indian national team, who led them to the first Test series victory down under in seventy years, is struggling to back up his words with performances and results as he takes barbs from former colleagues and critics.
In that light it is natural that the skipper reacted the way he did at the post-match session, venting his anger at the on field umpire for the unspotted no ball off Lasith Malinga that denied his team runs as well as an additional ball and with it the possibility of a victory.
That it came off what happened to be the last ball of the match is what gave it additional impact as well as significance. It could well be argued that had the no ball happened at any other time in the match, it may have well passed off with just enough interest to raise a query, nothing more. It could, also, be argued in the same breath that perhaps the Royal Challengers Bangalore could have made enough effort not to leave it to the last minute literally.
That said the point raised by Kohli is not wrong about this being the IPL though one has to say, umpire decisions are heavily debated and refuted even at gully cricket level so the club part is perhaps an insult.
For long, there has been an argument doing the rounds that if technology is available, it must be used. But not only has cricket been slow to adapt to changes but also, it has been a reluctant participant in the sea of change not just for monetary or financial constraints. In fact, the BCCI, which has the largest coffers anywhere in the world when it comes to cricket, has been very skeptical of adopting technology, resisting the Decision Review System for as long as it could hold out as a solitary protester.
So it may seem somewhat ironic that where the BCCI has the money to ring in the changes and experiment and advertise, perhaps even advocate the merit of using technology, the Indian captain is lamenting that the lack of use of available technology is damaging the sport and his team's chances.
What's more, while the cost to the broadcaster and organizer might be prohibitive, adopting review technology could slow down the game even more, something the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) has been more prominent in addressing in its recent recommendations about timing various aspects of the game.
How can cricket squeeze in the technology that clamps down on no ball and umpire errors and still speed up the game? Maybe the next IPL match may have more food for thought.