There are very few players who learn from their mistakes quickly and that reflects in their game. Indian skipper Virat Kohli is one of them. He was seen struggling with the short ball in last few games and the West Indies had discovered this trouble of him and hence had managed to keep him quiet until the first four ODIs. The situation got worse for him when he could not play a significant role in India’s chase of mere 190 runs in the fourth ODI, which the visitors went on to lose. However, the run machine overcame his troubles to bounce back hard on the West Indies. During India’s chase of 206 in the final match, he recorded his career’s 28th ODI century and now he has more hundreds in ODI chases than anybody else – 18.
Kohli’s unbeaten 111 off 115 balls that helped India clinch the series 3-1 against the West Indies came a few days after former Indian captain, MS Dhoni failed to finish the game for India when the target was as small as 190. When Dhoni comes at the crease, the first thought that comes to one’s mind is, “he will finish the game for India.” Ever since he made his ODI debut in 2004, Dhoni has held the middle-order responsibility along with taking the burden of finishing the game on his own shoulders. The tag of the “best finisher” only got strengthen after his heroics in the World Cup 2011 final against Sri Lanka.
Good old days
Ever since then, Dhoni has perfected the art of finishing. His role of the team’s finisher had become the bread and butter for him. Taking a game till the last few balls and sealing it with a few helicopters had become a normal routine for the former Indian captain when he was at his peak. He is not a batsman with a technique, so instead of the elegant shots, he gathered as many runs as possible by running between the wickets. “The problem for the finisher is that, too often, there is not much else to come. The big shot is not necessarily the best or smartest shot,” Dhoni once said in an interview.
“What matters is staying in. I am never in a hurry. My aim is to leave it till the bowler and I are on level ground, i.e. to the point at which he is under as much pressure as me. Then we see who can handle it,” Dhoni had added.
He has been the last over specialist for Team India. Going back to the 2012 CB Series, India needed 13 runs off the final over with Ravichandran Ashwin and Dhoni at the crease. McKay bowled a dot ball before Ashwin took a single and gave Dhoni the strike. India needed 12 runs off the four balls left. And their most dependent man delivered. McKay pitched the delivery high and Dhoni smashed it wide to long-on for a six. That immediately pushed the pressure to the bowler, who went on to bowl a no ball in the next delivery. India won the match by four wickets with two balls to spare.
Whenever there was Dhoni in the last over, he gave goosebumps to all the views across the globe. He always had some entertainment stored for the last over but also ensured a sure-sure victory for his team.
However, the last couple of years have witnessed a drop in Dhoni’s finisher’s graph. Since the 2011 World Cup, several changes have taken place in the Indian team and most of those have gone against Dhoni. There is a saying, “perfection cannot be improved.” Dhoni had not left any scope for him to excel anymore in the art of finishing a game, be it ODI or T20Is. Hence, the downfall would have happened in some time. Since 2014, Dhoni was at the crease in the last over a total of six times. Out of which, the “best finisher” failed four times and that raised questions of his place in the team.
Talking about the World Cup 2015, India entered the tournament as the defending champions but succumbed to the co-hosts, Australia, in the semi-final. Chasing 329 in a houseful crowd of Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), Dhoni came in when India needed 221 off 27 overs. However, he did not have the same class in him, like in 2011 World Cup final, to defend India’s title. To make it worse, after so much persistence under pressure with wickets falling on the other side, Dhoni got himself run out. The finisher, the best runner between the wickets, all the labels suddenly had become questionable.
The most hurtful failure of Dhoni came in Zimbabwe in 2016. India, chasing 171, needed eight runs in the final over. Madziva instantly became Zimbabwe’s hero when he restricted Dhoni from finishing the T20I in Harare.
The most recent instance where Dhoni could not finish the game successfully for India happened during the fourth ODI in the ongoing series against West Indies. When he was dismissed in the penultimate over, the disappointment was more than evident on his face. He closed his eyes, bowed his face and walked off the field. That reaction shook the social media, many speculating a harsh call from the man very soon.
There are the likes of Rishabh Pant and Dinesh Karthik, who can replace him in the team as the keeper-batsman. Moreover, the “finisher’s baton” has been passed. The new captain, Kohli, has shown he the best batsman in chases and is very capable of finishing the game for India. He has hardly failed to take India to the wire, he was at the crease. That is something Dhoni has not been doing, more often these days. Maybe, its time he accepts it and makes way for the better candidates, keeping the wellness of the team and 2019 World Cup in mind.