Dubai: Mahendra Singh Dhoni is known for his captaincy, for his cool head under pressure and as a feared finisher, but on Wednesday he also showed a new facet of his skills — being a perfect host.
Dhoni put out a lavish spread for the Indian team, who will be playing Australia in the third One Day International on Friday, which could also be the stumper’s final game in the famed Blue Colours at home ground.
“Thank you for last night MS Dhoni bhai and Sakshi bhabi,” leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal tweeted with a team picture in front of a massive dinner table.
“Great night with the boys at Mahi bhais place last night. Good food, fun chats all around and great energy. Perfect team evening,” Indian skipper Virat Kohli, who scored his 40th ODI century in the second clash in Nagpur on Tuesday, posted on Instagram, summing up the entire atmosphere as the hosts target a win in the third match in Ranchi, which could give India an unassailable lead in the five-match series.
Opener Shikhar Dhawan posted a picture of him along with K.L. Rahul and Rishabh Pant in front of a barbecue on Instagram.
There has been a sense of deja vu every time Dhoni has stepped on to the field in the ongoing series. It reminded many of Sachin Tendulkar’s penultimate Test series against Australia in 2013, when the cheer from the stands would amplify with each passing match.
Something similar has been happening at every ground in this series, with the fans possibly beginning to realise that Dhoni may not be around when India next play at home.
Ranchi has so far hosted three ties with India winning one, losing one and rain washing out the third match. Dhoni has batted only twice in Ranchi in which he has scored 10 not out (vs England on October 23, 2013) and 11 (vs New Zealand on October 26, 2016). In terms of wicketkeeping on his home turf, Dhoni has three catches and a stumping.
Dhoni also recently joined the likes of Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid in an elite list of Indian batsmen to have scored over 13,000 runs in List A cricket.
Besides the emotional sub-plot, Team India will be looking to fix their top-order as they prepare for the World Cup starting in June in the UK.
Amid the emotional side story, the Indian team is grappling with a few teething issues regarding its top-order batting, especially senior opener Dhawan’s poor form, which has affected India’s starts of late.
Despite Dhawan having gone off the boil with only two half-centuries in the last 15 ODIs, India are unlikely to tinker with the winning combination of the first two encounters.
Rahul, who is back in form, may have to wait until India clinch the series, but the team management could well try him out at the No. 3 position.
The two victories — by six wickets and eight runs — weren’t exactly convincing but pulling off close matches under pressure will certainly add to the confidence.
Vice-captain Rohit Sharma, the second most consistent player in this line-up, looked good in the first game before he got out.
Kedar Jadhav and Dhoni shepherded India in the first match and didn’t trouble the scorers in the next.
Ambati Rayudu, whose only significant knock was the 90 against New Zealand in the last away series, has also been inconsistent and can be replaced with Rahul. Rayudu, who has retired from first-class cricket, has found it difficult and his primary problem has been not being able to rotate the strike.
“Just coming through these kinds of games gives us confidence. It’s important to look ugly at times, and come through and win. We might get these low-scoring games in the World Cup as well,” Kohli had said after the second game.
There are no such worries about Indian bowling as they have performed as a unit. The biggest gain in the second game has been Jadhav and Vijay Shankar performing their combined role of a fifth bowler to perfection.
Shankar’s two wickets while bowling the final over will also instill confidence in his captain that in case Hardik Pandya has a breakdown, he has a fallback option in the Tamil Nadu all-rounder.
However, he is still not somebody who can bowl six to seven overs consistently in each game.
Mohammad Shami and Jasprit Bumrah have been outstanding in the two games so far. If Shami was lethal during the opening spell of the first game, Bumrah set it up with another incredible effort at the death in the second.
One who is quietly inching towards a slot in the World Cup-bound squad is Ravindra Jadeja, who has bowled brilliantly in those middle overs in tandem with Kuldeep Yadav.
Siddarth Kaul has gone back and it’s clear that he is not the backup pacer while Bhuvneshwar Kumar is back after being rested.
India: Virat Kohli (captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Ambati Rayudu, Kedar Jadhav, Vijay Shankar, MS Dhoni (wk), Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammad Shami, Ravindra Jadeja, Yuzvendra Chahal, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Rishabh Pant.
Australia: Aaron Finch, Usman Khawaja, Peter Handscomb, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Ashton Turner, Jhye Richardson, Adam Zampa, Andrew Tye, Pat Cummins, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Alex Carey, Nathan Lyon, Jason Behrendorff.
Match Starts: noon (UAE).
— With inputs from agencies