Stokes, Tahir in awe of finisher M.S. Dhoni

Chennai Super Kings skipper Dhoni smashed an unbeaten 75 off 46 balls to get his side to a competitive total against Rajasthan Royals on Sunday.

Chennai Super Kings skipper M.S. Dhoni in action against Rajasthan Royals at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai on Sunday.   -  PTI


Mahendra Singh Dhoni asserted his supremacy as one of the best finishers of the game when he smacked the Rajasthan Royals bowlers to all parts of the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium on Sunday night.

Bowlers were left distraught, struggling to find ways to deal with the assault. By the time, Ajinkya Rahane and Co. tried to devise an alternate plan, Dhoni was in the zone for monstrous innings.

Dhawal Kulkarni and Jaydev Unadkat, his once team-mate at the now-defunct Rising Pune Supergiant, suffered the most as Dhoni milked them for 24 and 28 runs in their last overs.

Sadly, it would be futile if one even tried to replicate what one of the best finishers in the game can do, as Ben Stokes would find out later.

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Stokes kept Rajasthan Royals in the hunt with 46 off 26 balls but failed to catch hold of the moment that mattered the most — a good start to the final over with 12 required. Bet a fortune on Dhoni to capitalise on that moment, you’d be a millionaire.

“It's obvious what MS Dhoni does. He's one of the world's greatest finishers who has ever graced the game of cricket.

“He takes it deep as he possibly can. He is a great person to learn from and watch how he goes about his innings, whether it is setting a total or chasing. Sometimes you got to hold your hand up and say the best players in the world can do that and he showed that tonight," Stokes said, after the loss.

Stokes, partly, blamed it on luck too. “Getting him (MSD) out was our main objective. Especially when he comes in early, every team knows what he's going to try and do to start with. We tried to attack him. There was a dropped catch, and the ball hitting the stumps and the bails not coming off. It happens in the game,” the England all-rounder said.

CSK spinner Imran Tahir was beaming when asked about his skipper’s innings. “He's done that so many times. He's been through situations like this all his life, and he knows his game plan. We're happy to have him in our team, because I don't want to play against him!" Tahir said.

As he sent the final ball of the CSK innings into the stands at the long-off region, Dhoni just sprinted towards the dressing room, all set to don the hat of a master thinker.

He essayed his second role to perfection. The new ball was the best time when wickets would fall and his fast bowlers — Deepak Chahar and Shardul Thakur — responded to the cue.

He gave Mitchell Santner and Ravindra Jadeja a go with the wet ball and changed the ball when he wanted Dwayne Bravo and Imran Tahir to operate for their off-cutters and leg-breaks.

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It was a masterstroke. Tahir gripped the ball beautifully and broke a threatening partnership. Bravo, bowling at the death, kept his composure and denied Royals.

“We had our variations up our sleeve. The bowlers were trying different things. The spinners had to bowl wicket to wicket and the fast bowlers had to execute the slower balls to perfection,” Tahir said.

Reflecting on the last over, Stokes heaped praise on Bravo. “Bravo is so experienced in those situations, he knows what to do. He's probably one of the best in the world at the death. All you can do is, just say 'well bowled' at the end of the day," Stokes said.

The all-rounder added, “The plan was to get it down to the last over. The first ball is the most important to get a boundary off. I felt I was unlucky that the ball went straight to the fielder.”

Rajasthan now has a mountain to climb. “We know it’s just about winning those crucial moments. That was the last over and unfortunately we couldn’t cross the line. After losing your first three games, you probably can’t say that you’re taking positives from that but there’s no point in looking back now.

“We’ve got the concentrate on however many games we’ve got because if we lose four or five on the bounce, it’s going to be really tough to come back from that,” Stokes added.