With the match very much in the balance at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore on Saturday, the Chennai Super Kings decided to rejig their batting order to get skipper MS Dhoni at the crease, and boy did the move pay off as the visitors strolled to an eight-wicket win with still more than two overs of the contest remaining.
However, as Chennai now contemplate the play-offs, the franchise must surely resist the temptation to drop Dhoni back down to his usual No. 5 position in the order if they want to make up for the heartbreak of being runners-up in each of the previous two editions of the Indian Premier League.
Too often in the past the Super Kings have appeared reluctant to make full use of their captain’s unrivalled abilities with bat in hand, as have India too at times in both one-day international and Twenty20 cricket.
And yet when MS is moved up the order, either on his own request or the management's, the results are there for all to see.
Think back to the 2011 World Cup final in Mumbai, for example, when Dhoni took it upon himself to see his side home after jumping up one place to No. 5 and scoring an unbeaten 91 from just 79 deliveries, as India chased down 275 for victory with 10 balls remaining.
But against the Royal Challengers Bangalore, with the visitors on 85 for two approaching the halfway point of their innings following the loss of key man Suresh Raina, and still needing another 60 runs for victory, out walked the wicketkeeper-batsman instead of David Hussey, who had batted at No. 4 in Chennai’s six-wicket loss to the Sunrisers Hyderabad on Thursday.
As was also the case in his man-of-the-match display at the Wankhede Stadium three years ago, Dhoni’s innings against Bangalore started slowly as he made a cautious four runs from his first 15 balls, before a seemingly serious-looking injury appeared to be the catalyst to the 32-year-old’s explosion into life.
That turn of his ankle actually seemed to free the big-hitting batsman up in actual fact, as Dhoni then broke a sequence of 33 deliveries without a boundary by paddle sweeping Yuzvendra Chahal for four.
And while the stumper was badly missed by his opposite number having made just 15, thereafter it was the MS Show, beginning with a savage attack on his compatriot Yuvraj Singh, who he smashed for 22 from the 16th over, including two massive sixes driven straight down the ground.
The 50-run partnership with Faf du Plessis soon followed off only 43 balls as the tide very much turned in Chennai’s favour, and from that moment on the result was a mere formality as first Dhoni muscled Mitchell Starc through the covers for four, before Shadab Jakati was then brought on to try to tame the beast.
However, to no avail as Dhoni, who by this stage was seeing it like a football, swept his first ball back for four, before then imperiously launching yet another one of his now characteristic straight sixes down the ground with that strong bottom hand of his.
Just for the record, Dhoni finished unbeaten on 49 from just 28 balls, with four fours and three sixes, as the Super Kings’ run-rate was catapulted up to 9.05 runs per over, and that is the effect of the man, he always manages to be able to lift the tempo and scoring rate whenever he marches out to the middle.
And that is also exactly why MS must bat in this exact same position when Chennai begin their attempts to win a third IPL crown in their eliminator at the Brabourne Stadium on Wednesday.
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