Thursday, January 23, 2014

Dhoni stares at a four-gone conclusion

By John Cheeran

In case you have forgotten, India are still world champions. Mahendra
Singh Dhoni and his merry band of men will continue to be champions till another team will be anointed on March 29, 2015. But for now, Indians have slid from the No.1 pedestal in ODI rankings with their fourth successive defeat (and all away from home) on Wednesday in Seddon Park in Hamilton.

The margin of defeat should not rankle us. But losing first to a
formidable South African (in Johannesburg by 141 runs and in Durban by 134 runs) and now to an eighth ranked New Zealand in a row (24 runs in Napier and 15 runs in Hamilton) should irk us. Is there anything going wrong?

It was a match that India should have won, given how things panned
out. As usual Virat Kohli (78 off 65 balls) was brilliant. And he was lucky too.  Rubbing shoulders with the Indians, the Kiwis let their fielding slip many notches down. First Kohli was dropped, then Dhoni was put down. Suresh Raina was let off to regain his crease. There were many such signs of the hosts wilting under the lights.

That India had to score an additional 26 runs for victory than the 271
posted by New Zealand once the Duckworth-Lewis rules applied cannot be bandied about as an excuse. In a small ground, big-hitting could always win the day. With five wickets in hand and 40 runs required from 18 balls a win was still possible. The reason, skipper Dhoni was still around, tacking his chances. But an unusually nervy Kiwis finally regrouped to dismiss Dhoni (56 off 44b) with Williamson completing the catch off Corey Anderson.

Dhoni in fact tried all that he could do. He juggled around his
bowlers, bringing in seven of them to stem the run flow. But certain things you can’t budget for such as the innings by Corey Anderson when the youngster hammered five sixes to log 44 off 17 balls. It helped the Kiwi cause that Kane Williamson (77 off 87 balls) played the part of No.3 in a responsible manner.

With eight overs less to play in the rain-curtailed match, Dhoni did
the right thing by promoting himself to take control of the innings (India 127/3 in 23.4 overs). With Virat and the skipper at the crease, the chase was on. But they could not make the difference to India’s task at hand. It was a collective failure. None of the Indian batsmen could act as a cornerstone to turn the match around. All of them tried, tried hard, including Suresh Raina but did not succeed. There lies the problem. And it is much bigger than losing the No.1 tag.

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