For sheer drama and emotional intensity, very few events can match the thrill and excitement that a closely contested sporting game offers. No wonder sportspersons are hailed for their heroics and the very best acquire the status of legends. The flip side to it is the great ones are expected to deliver almost every time and the fans can be unforgiving and short on memory when these superstars falter.
M.S. Dhoni has easily been the most popular Indian cricketer since Sachin Tendulkar and the man from Ranchi has come under intense scrutiny in the past couple of seasons as there has been a sharp dip in his performances with the bat.
Read also: Dhoni guides Pune to 6-wicket win over Hyderabad
In the meantime, Virat Kohli proved to be an ideal replacement for Dhoni as the Indian captain and took the Test side to No. 1 spot riding on a spectacular run at home.
Dhoni, on the other hand, has had a quiet time of late. He quit Indian captaincy in the shorter formats of the game in January and then he was rather surprisingly removed as skipper of his IPL franchise – Rising Pune Supergiant. Dhoni struggled with the bat in the first few games of IPL-10 and the comment by former Indian captain Sourav Ganguly that Dhoni's record as a T20 player was not great meant the critics were ready to write epitaph on his career.
Dhoni showed signs of getting back to form with a fighting 28 against Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) and proved his class with a sensational assault on an in-form Bhuvneshwar Kumar to script Pune's last-ball win over holders Sunrisers Hyderabad on Saturday. He smartly played out Afghan leggie Rashid Khan before ripping apart Bhuvneshwar in his last couple of overs to keep Pune in the hunt and then take them home in the company of Manoj Tiwary off the final ball.
Dhoni's performance was yet another reminder that when it comes to the crunch he can still hold his own. Yes, his success rate as a finisher has come down considerably, but in a tense situation, Dhoni's clarity of thought coupled with his vast experience mean he is still mighty effective.
Brilliant behind the stumps
Though his batting prowess has been on the wane, Dhoni is still in a class of his own as a wicketkeeper. His lightning quick stumping to get rid of AB de Villiers went a long way in Pune successfully defending 161 against a power-packed RCB batting line-up. Dhoni has been one of the shrewdest men ever to have played the game and the 35-year-old knows it very well that he needs a bit of time before launching into the big shots. Dhoni had publicly stated that he was finding it tough to freely rotate strike during the ODI series against New Zealand last year.
Dhoni has been a selfless servant of Indian cricket. He will leave the game on his own terms, when he feels the time is right. True, young wicketkeeper-batsmen such as Rishabh Pant and Sanju Samson as well the seasoned Dinesh Karthik, Parthiv Patel and Wriddhiman Saha have been trying their best to break open the door to the Indian limited over formats. But Dhoni's deeds on the big stage mean they will have to wait till the great man decides to call it quits.