Mahendra Singh Dhoni's indelible mark on the one-day series was perhaps the most heartening feature of India's 2-1 series victory. His patented finish at Melbourne, with a six to calm the nerves in the dressing room, was a throwback to his initial show in the middle – decisive and triumphant.
India did exceptionally well to win the Test series 2-1. It made history, expectedly, since Virat Kohli's team had the required ammunition which, for various reasons, did not work effectively in the away series in South Africa and England. Fans of Indian cricket wanted a series win in Australia and it came in style.
The focus in the one-day series was on experiments. Jasprit Bumrah was rightly rested and each match had a new bowler as the team management looked to the future. Khaleel Ahmed played at Sydney, Siraj Ahmed at Adelaide and the decider at Melbourne had Vijay Shankar, Kedar Jadhav and Yuzvendra Chahal making their maiden appearances. Among the bowlers, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami and Ravindra Jadeja figured in all three matches.
Chahal's success – six for 42 – for the skills that he employed, getting the batsmen out with turn, flight and the straighter one. “The ball was spinning a little bit, so I planned to bowl slow and vary my pace,” said Chahal of his conquest. Australia has produced some of the finest leg-spinners in the game and the dismissals plotted by Chahal must have rekindled their memories, especially Shane Warne, who loved beguiling the batsmen. Chahal was a joy to savour. So was Dhoni.
Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli each had a hundred to their name. Dhoni did not. But the veteran made a huge impact with his defining presence. He loves creating situations where he alone can dictate the course. He has mastered last-over finishes and here he was at his vintage best, triggering the debate if he was to be India's man at No. 4 at the World Cup since Ambati Rayudu looks out of place in demanding conditions.
Dhoni, India's highest-scorer with three fifties in an aggregate of 193 runs, regardless of the reprieves he got, was humble as always. “It is not about where you want to bat; I am happy to bat at any number and after playing for 14 years, I can't say that I don't want to bat at number six and want to bat at four.”
India may not have found a solution for the No. 4 slot yet but Dhoni, in the absence of K. L. Rahul, remains the evergreen choice. Not just for No. 4, as he puts it, but any position. He is eyeing the World Cup already.