Two of the best teams had made it to the finals of the ICC Champions Trophy 2013. A lot was written in the newspapers about the home advantage for England and how India would struggle in the seaming conditions, given the fact that bad weather would only further favour England. The match was delayed, and India had lost the battle for many fans after England won the toss in the crucial encounter on their home ground. The remaining hopes were shattered when Dhoni’s men managed to post just 129 runs on the board in a match that had been reduced to 20 overs.
Yes, it was a low score. But considering the fact that India were struggling at 66/5 at one stage, 129 seemed to be a decent total. But then again, they were playing against the hosts, who were expected to comprehensively chase down the score. At the end of the first innings, everybody praised two crucial knocks played by Virat Kohli and Ravindra Jadeja, nevertheless even the staunchest supporters of the Indian team knew that they were about 20-30 runs short.
The Indian team struggled to score boundaries even as they lost wickets at regular intervals. A lot was expected from MS Dhoni, who has of late, proved his worth as a big match player. While the other batsmen looked vulnerable against England’s quality seam attack - even though Virat Kohli looked flawless at the crease - his fans anticipated another brutal assault by the Indian skipper. So, when Mahi’s upper cut landed into Tredwell’s safe hands at third man, the English players knew that they had prevented an assault from Dhoni.
Everybody thought it wasn’t his day – and thus, England looked all set to win their maiden 50-over ICC trophy.
They forgot that MS Dhoni too was seeking history by becoming the only skipper to have won all the global ICC tournaments. And he made sure that the final wasn’t a one-sided contest. All he needed was a good show by his bowlers and some luck.
Fortune struck when England’s opener Ian Bell was stumped by Dhoni off Jadeja’s bowling and he appealed. The reviews showed that it was a close call, and everybody thought that the benefit of doubt would go to the batsman. But surprisingly, the third umpire thought differently and Bell had to walk back to the pavilion. That dismissal in the ninth over was a big blow for England, who were expecting Bell to steer the innings after having spent some time at the crease.
Now, it was time for Dhoni, the skipper, to weave his magic. Ishant Sharma was in the midst of a bad day in the field as he leaked some runs due to poor fielding and then went for 27 runs in his first three overs. Dhoni had saved one over each from Jadeja and Ashwin and he needed someone who could create some pressure in the 18th over. Umesh Yadav had bowled just two overs and even Bhuvneshwar had one left. But Dhoni being Dhoni, asked Ishant to bowl the decisive over and he picked two wickets off two balls and that was the game.
The best part of Dhoni’s captaincy is his ability to utilise the available resources. Once he saw Ashwin getting a lot of purchase from the Edgbaston turf, he immediately knew the bowlers who could have taken the pace off the ball would be crucial. Then, he followed his instincts, which have often done wonders for the team. From giving Joginder Sharma the final over of the inaugural T20 World Cup, to promoting himself in the batting order against Sri Lanka in the ICC World Cup 2011, everything has worked for the brave Indian skipper.
Despite having won the major ICC tournaments, how much this trophy meant to him was evident from his reaction the moment James Tredwell failed to hit the final ball of the innings. Dhoni was the first one to jump, as this time Ashwin ran back to collect a stump and all other Indian players ran to form a huddle. Ishant Sharma immediately ran from deep square leg and hugged Dhoni, with an expression that probably said, “Thanks for saving my career, Skipper!”
When India won the ICC World Cup 2011, they had Tendulkar, Gambhir, Sehwag and Zaheer Khan. But the trophy held by Team India at Edgbaston had many players who had reinvigorated themselves. Dhoni deserves all the credit for this, as he has consistently backed youngsters. He has taught them to play fearless cricket and just like the fans, these players know they can’t lose a match till the time their skipper is leading them.
These are Dhoni’s players, the team that he has always wanted. The team is lucky enough to stay away from controversies at the moment. MS Dhoni is teaching his boys to enjoy cricket to the fullest and fight till the last ball. I am not sure whether people will remember him as India’s best skipper ever, but one thing is for sure, the entire cricket fraternity would remember him as a gutsy, genius cricketer to have led the Indian team for so long.
Dhoni’s cabinet got heavier with the ICC Champions Trophy. India were the deserving champions as they were the men on a mission. The bad weather forecast went against them after Cook won the toss, but the Men in Blue fought against all odds to win the tournament. And when they held the trophy, its name seemed so appropriate and justified – The ‘Champions’ Trophy!