The demise of Mahendra Singh Dhoni has been greatly exaggerated
The premature obituary has existed since the birth of journalism. Time and time again through the years, for one reason or another, the demise of a global figure – from Mark Twain to Madonna – has been broadcast to the world a little too hastily.
While often laughed off by their subjects, these erroneous eulogies have had tragic consequences – Jamaican nationalist Marcus Garvey reportedly died after reading his.
However they have also had transformative effects on the lives of their protagonists, such as Alfred Nobel – the pacifist inventor of dynamite – who was so saddened by being labelled a ‘merchant of death’ in his that he set up the prestigious prizes that still bear his last name.
In a field where excellence is so often defined by the mental strength and determination of its stars, it is perhaps no surprise that the premature sporting obituary so often has this same change-eliciting effect on its subject.
This was certainly the case in Kochi yesterday where India’s captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, so recently written off by large swathes of his own national media as well as many abroad, provided a fearsome riposte to his critics in his own inimitable swashbuckling style.
Dhoni has been given a fair amount of stick this winter, not only as one of many Indian stars to largely underperform with the bat during their first home series defeat to England for 28 years but also as that side’s captain, with many questioning his long term suitability for the job.
While one game does not atone for everything, he has certainly provided a timely reminder that any writing of obituaries was somewhat premature.
Having won the toss and chosen to bat, Dhoni’s men were initially frustrated by some disciplined English bowling so that when he came to the crease in the 27th over, with India at 119-4, another batting capitulation looked like being on the cards.
However, at first cautiously with Suresh Raina, and then explosively during the last ten overs with Ravindra Jadeja, Dhoni silenced his doubters in his preferred way – with boundary after boundary, smashing 72 off just 66 balls.
Although top-scorer in the innings, his knock was in many ways overshadowed by the brilliance of the younger Jadeja, who hit 61 runs from just 37 balls as India amassed over 100 runs in the last ten overs to take the game away from England.
England never really got going with the bat, losing Ian Bell early and although Alistair Cook was perhaps a little unfortunate to be given out LBW, it was Dhoni’s much-maligned captaincy, which helped to really end their hopes.
His decision to give Bhuvneshwar Kumar one more over proved inspired as the young seamer bowled Kevin Pietersen and then had Eoin Morgan caught behind brilliantly by Dhoni in the space of three balls, to reduce England to 73-4 inside the first 15 overs.
It was a blow they never recovered from, with the spin bowling of Ravichandran Ashwin and Jadeja providing a further five wickets, before appropriately enough, the game’s central performers Dhoni and Jadeja combined one last time to run out Jade Dernbach, ending England’s innings on a dismal 158 and giving India a convincing 127-run victory.
The series now moves to Ranchi at the far end of the country, delicately balanced at 1-1, and while Jadeja may have taken the man of the match award for his all-round heroics in Kochi yesterday, it was Dhoni who, like Mark Twain many years ago, assured the world that all reports of his demise had been greatly exaggerated.
Follow the writer on twitter @thesportsfoxTagged in: Cricket, India, Mahendra Singh Dhoni
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