IPL 2024: MS Dhoni Swings for the Skies, But Falls at the Final Hurdle Yet Again
IPL 2024: MS Dhoni Swings for the Skies, But Falls at the Final Hurdle Yet Again
It was not written in the stars for MS Dhoni as his CSK side suffered a crushing loss at the hands of RCB to end their campaign on a heartbreak.

For the large part of the first five years of his India captaincy tenure, Mahendra Singh Dhoni had developed an unmatched reputation for winning the batter vs bowler contest, when it came to the death. Some might say, though, that as the years passed by, the bowlers found ways to have their say in these contests as Dhoni’s finishing powers began to wane.

On Saturday, nearly five years since retiring from international cricket, Dhoni walked out to bat, with Chennai Super Kings (CSK) needing 72 runs to qualify in 30 balls and end Royal Challengers Bangalore’s (RCB) incredible charge in the 2024 Indian Premier League (IPL).

Anyone who has seen and followed this year’s IPL would have felt this was a doable task (We have been spoilt to such an extent that it is hard to give the bowlers the edge even when the chasing team needs more than 14 runs per over).

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There was delirium in the stands, as expected when CSK’s number 7 walked out and keeping the magnitude of the task in mind, the former captain began in the manner that was required of him- 12 runs from six balls as the deficit came down to 50 runs from three overs.

From this juncture, however, Dhoni started to show the aspect of the game which made him the finisher that he was during his prime – the ability to slow the game down. On more than one occasion, there was a mid-pitch meet-up with Ravindra Jadeja. There was some time taken to adjust his eyelashes, just to ensure that he, Jadeja and all those supporting CSK had some time to breathe.

READ MORE: IPL 2024: CSK’s MS Dhoni and RCB’s Dinesh Karthik Add Farewell Subplot to Crunch Contest

This was classic Dhoni. Remember how Hardik Pandya turned things around against Bangladesh in the 2016 T20 World Cup game when all the odds in the world were stacked against him? Dhoni slowed the game down then because he knew the one rule which most may not have- you can’t be fined once the final over starts within the stipulated time.

Anyhow, getting back to the game, Dhoni’s brisk start to his innings was followed by a phase of lull. His next five balls yielded a mere seven runs as he transferred the pressure onto Jadeja. De ja vu from the 2019 ODI World Cup semifinal?

READ MORE: IPL 2024: Yash Dayal Holds His Nerve as RCB Beat CSK to Claim Final Playoff Berth

As if fate had decided to go back in time to revisit a painful memory from that game (at least for Indian fans), Lockie Ferguson ran in to bowl the penultimate over of the innings. On that day in Manchester, Dhoni had whacked the first ball for a six over point to cause bedlam in the stands. On this day, it was a head-high, full toss which even the former captain could not connect. It was the second above-the-waist full toss, which, in many cases, would have ended his spell for the night but the umpires chose to think otherwise.

Dhoni, again, transferred the pressure onto Jadeja with a single off the second ball. The southpaw hit the third ball for a four before there was another one of those signature pauses. CSK needed 29 runs in 10 balls, but they were playing a game of their own with Dhoni leading the stoppages in play.

The second half of the over fetched 11 runs, four of which had come from Dhoni’s bat. The scenario had come down to 17 runs off the last over, with the CSK talisman on strike. It was what he loved the most in his heyday-the pressure balance had shifted to such an extent that both Dhoni and the bowler had equal amounts of burden to carry in their heads and that is when it became merely him versus the bowler.

Dhoni sent the first ball off Yash Dayal’s last over, out of the ground. Fans went berserk in the stadium. Many felt the pendulum had finally swung. But as has been the case on many occasions in the last decade, the final hurdle proved just a bit too far. Dayal bowled a back-of-the-hand slower ball, Dhoni went for the almighty swing and Swapnil Singh caught the orb at backward square leg.

25 runs off 13 balls. While walking back, Dhoni punched his bat in despair and muttered something under his breath. Was he thinking of how fate had let him down again? Dhoni’s end proved to be CSK’s, as well as Dayal, completed an exceptional final over to help RCB clinch the final Playoff spot.

As the teams went through the customary handshakes after the game, Dhoni asked Gaikwad to lead the troops and did not join his teammates in the gesture. Maybe he had had enough. Maybe he wanted to finally slow down his own life, for good.

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