Dubai: Mahendra Singh Dhoni, called the captain cool by many, is more importantly a master tactician. Whether announcing his retirement in the middle of a series or making his tactical change during a match, MSD catches his detractors and rivals wrong on many an occasion.
It was one such day that he won the tactical battle over Delhi Capitals captain Rishabh Pant.
Starting from the toss until hitting the winning runs, Dhoni’s decision has defied popular notions and once again proved his superiority as a thinking captain.
In a crunch game like the Qualifier the general trend, which most pundits would advocate, is to win the toss and elect to bat.
The logic being, after putting a big score, they can pile the pressure on the rivals. That was not to be! After turning lucky with the coin, Dhoni elected to bowl without battling an eyelid.
A quick start by Delhi Capitals made one wonder if Chennai Super Kings captain had handed over the match on a platter to the rivals.
But smart changes pulled Delhi back to 51 for two by the end of power play. His decision to bring in Moeen Ali yielded immediate results and Delhi soon were reduced to 90 for 4 after 12 overs.
Even a battling innings from Pant could not give Delhi the right finish and ended up with 172 for five.
When Chennai suffered the loss of Faf du Plessis in the fourth ball, there were alarm bells for Chennai.
But Dhoni pulled out another surprise. When everyone was expecting Ali to walk in, Robin Uthappa was sent up the order. A baffling move! Not for Dhoni and CSK. None expected Uthappa to be in the playing XI after not doing enough to grab the attention in the three previous innings.
But Uthappa reposed the faith in him by scoring a half-century. A general trend is that the teams try to maintain the tempo, but CSK started consolidating for three overs after the power play, forcing Delhi bowlers to think. Did Dhoni send a message to Ruturaj Gaikwad and Uthappa?
When Uthappa got out, who walked in? It was Shardul Thakur. Another surprise to send in a pinch-hitter to scuttle Delhi’s plans.
However, the move did not yield the desired result, but Dhoni never stops innovating and inventing ways to win the tactical battle.
After a few quick wickets, one expected in-form Ravindra Jadeja to walk in. But again Dhoni sprang a surprise by walking into the ground. Despite a lean patch, the former Indian captain trusted his abilities as the dangerous finisher in the game and completed the task in his own style.
He even stayed well within the crease and was waiting for the short balls to punish than play his favourite helicopter shot off the front foot. Super Kings fans now await for more such surprises in the final.