MS Dhoni is captain cool and the man with the Midas touch. As long as he is batting, India can hope for a victory. He is one of the world’s best finishers and an interesting statistic is that he has hit the winning shot in ODI a whopping 28 times!
That includes finishing a match with a six 9 times and also finishing off the match with a four another 9 times. Batting first also he has hit a six and a four three times each off the last ball of the innings.
And who can forget his match-winning innings and last ball six in the final of the ODI World Cup! That will be etched in the minds of Indian fans forever. However even for the great Dhoni, his luck seems to be running out.
In the finals of the 2013 Champions Trophy, he got out for a rare duck. Luckily the bowlers won that final for us. Then in the final of the 2014 T20 World Cup, he managed just 4 runs off 7 balls. Now in the semi-final of the 2015 World Cup he still managed a half-century but not really got going.
When Dhoni came into the picture, India was reeling and they probably required him to go at a strike rate of 150-200%, not that impossible when the likes of AB de Villiers can bat at 250-300% at times.
However a dot ball, a single and an occasional six meant that Dhoni made 65 off 65, which would have been decent for an opener but could be seen as a failure in the crucial run chase.
While Dhoni’s star was declining, Virat Kohli’s was rising. He was turning out to be our key player in crunch matches. Not only was he chasing down ODI targets with century after century, but coming good in knockout matches too.
In the 2011 World Cup final, India were reeling at 31-2 and Kohli’s 83-run third wicket partnership with Gautam Gambhir brought us back on track. Then in the semis of the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy, he hit a fine unbeaten 58.
He was the top scorer on both sides in the final with a handy 43 without which we surely would have lost. In the 2014 T20 World Cup, Kohli hit a brutal 72 off 44 and helped us chase down a formidable target of 173 with South Africa. In the final, the rest of the batting may have failed, but Kohli hit 77 off 58.
Had he got support from even one batsman, we would probably have lifted the World Cup. Kohli was getting a near 100% reliability in knockout matches. He started with a bang in World Cup 2015 too. He scored a crucial century with our arch nemesis Pakistan and showed consistency in the rest of the league: 46, 33*, 33, 44* and 38.
However in the quarter-final with Bangladesh, he showed a rare failure. He scored just 3 runs off 6 balls. When we entered the semis everyone expected Kohli to fire. What were the chances of a match winner and big match player like Kohli failing for two knockout matches in a row?
However what came was worse. He scored just 1 off 11 runs and hit one of the worst shots of his life to gift his wicket away to the Aussies.
It is tragic that India has two of the biggest match winners and big match players in the world and both didn’t take us across the line in the semis. Dhoni maybe has one last chance to go out with a bang in the T20 World Cup in 2016 which is being held in India, or maybe 2018. The 2019 ODI World Cup seems doubtful because he will turn 38 that year.
As far as Kohli is concerned, he is just 26 and Indian fans are hoping that he wins at least one more World Cup for India. Anyway, here’s to thanking Dhoni and Kohli for giving us so many tournament wins in the last couple of years and hoping for at least one match winning ICC final from each before they are done!
The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.
He blogs at http://www.sunilrajguru.com/