Dhoni ‘the most destructive closer’

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‘You got to remember playing an innings like that [is hard]. We had got a bit blasé about how special they were’ – Stephen Fleming on the criticism surrounding MS Dhoni © BCCI

Anxiety and the desperation to do well combined with MS Dhoni‘s hitting ability to make him play his first big innings of impact this IPL. A target of 47 from the final three overs was reduced to 10 from the final one before Dhoni closed the match against Sunrisers Hyderabad with a last-ball four.

Before Saturday, Dhoni’s lean form- 61 runs in 73 balls at a weak strike rate of 87.14 – had left Rising Pune Supergiant a worried franchise. Elsewhere, it prompted a debate on whether it was time for the Indian selectors to start thinking about blooding the young Rishabh Pant to replace Dhoni.

According to Stephen Fleming, the Pune coach, the beauty of Dhoni has been to remain immune to the outside noise. “It was vintage wasn’t it,” he said the eve of Pune’s next match. “It was a performance that was befitting of a man who has the reputation of being a great finisher.”

Prior to the match-winning 61 off 34 balls though, there was restlessness about Dhoni’s non-performance. Fleming reasoned that was only because everybody had grown used to him playing the role of finisher to perfection.

“There has been a discussion around when was the last time he has played an innings like that,” Fleming said. “You have to remember playing an innings like that [is hard]. We had got a bit blasé about how special they were. But yesterday, he proved again that when he is in the mood, and has got the sight or the feel for the bowling, he is still the most destructive closer that the game has seen.

“People were questioning his form, but certainly from the finishing point of view I will reiterate we have got a bit blasé because it was happening so often. We benefited from it at Chennai [Super Kings] a lot and people were yearning for a performance like that. And like all great players do, he delivered.”

Dhoni, though, was aware that he was running out of time to reiterate those credentials. “Yes, [he was anxious],” Fleming said. “He was determined. He has been training a lot. He has certainly hit a lot of balls and it was all building up to an innings of substance. He desperately wants us to do well this year. After last year, we all felt that we needed more contributions from everybody. He, in particular, was the one to put his hand up. So he has been wanting to win a game. [Steven] Smith, as well, has been wanting to win a game and our big players want to contribute and one of our biggest did that yesterday which was great.”

A key moment in the chase was when Dhoni came up against Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the 19th. At the time, Sunrisers seamer who had never given more than 10 runs in an over while bowling in the last five. But Dhoni took him for 19.

“The calmness he shows in such situations is one of his greatest assets,” Fleming said. “And yesterday, it was to the fore. We thought that it was probably late and we had not got too much of the total to leave us with a good chase in the end, but he proved that, with the hitting and batting skills and the power that players have these days, no score is impossible and that puts so much pressure on the bowlers. And good bowlers too, Bhuvneshwar Kumar has been bowling very well. It was a good match-up and a good result for us.”

Article source: http://www.espncricinfo.com/indian-premier-league-2017/content/story/1094230.html?CMP=OTC-RSS All Images and Article Content Copyright own by Same Source Owner.

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