Rising Pune Supergiant was reeling at 121 for 4 after the end of the 18th over in the first qualifier against Mumbai Indians on Tuesday (May 16). The Steve Smith-led side was in dire need of some quick runs and Mahendra Singh Dhoni took the onus upon himself to steer his side to a challenging total.
Prior to the qualifier, the former India skipper had not been able to perform as per his reputation. One of the best finishers the game has ever witnessed, Dhoni had struggled to play his natural aggressive games on the majority of the occasions. During the qualifier too, he was struggling to get going and was batting on 14 runs off 17 balls when the 18th over ended.But the 35-year old batsman once again showed that he is still the best in business when it comes to situations like these. He hit four sixes in the last couple of overs to help his side collect 41 runs and post 162. He scored an unbeaten 40 off just 26 balls with the help of 5 sixes.
Dhoni’s knock made the difference in the end as the Supergiant defeated Mumbai Indians by 20 runs to make it to their maiden IPL final. Washington Sundar starred with the ball, taking 3 for 16 in his four overs as Mumbai were restricted to 142 for 9.
And Michael Clarke also feels that Dhoni’s innings changed the game. The former Australia skipper said that the 160-plus target gave the Pune-side the much-needed confidence and they fully capitalised on it by winning the game quite comfortably in the end.
“That changed the game. The fact that Pune managed to get over the 160-run mark, the confidence in the change room was different. Pune took that momentum walking in to the field. The pitch was such that it took batsmen some time to get in and MS did take some time but he knew he could change it in the end,” Clarke told India Today.
Clarke also had a word of praise for Dhoni’s wicket-keeping in the ongoing tournament, where he has taken 10 catches in addition to affecting 3 stumping.
“What has gone unnoticed is his wicket-keeping. That’s his primary job and he has been the best in the competition. Secondly, he is a batsman and you want him to bat well because you know how good he is and on Tuesday night he did that,” Clarke said.
“The other thing about great players which MS does is to stand up when the team needs you the most. He is one of the few who stands up on big occasions consistently. Tuesday night was another example,” he added.
Clarke also backed the former India skipper to do well in the upcoming ICC Champions Trophy in England. Calling Dhoni as the best wicket-keeper in the country, Clarke further added that the World Cup-winning skipper is still doing well with the bat.
“I think he is still as good as he has been. I have said this through the IPL and will continue to say that through the Champions Trophy, India has made a smart decision in picking him for the tournament.
“He deserves to be there. He is the best wicket-keeper in the country. His batting is still as good as it always was. He has shown form in patches in the IPL and I have no doubt he will show us (what he can do) in Champions Trophy,” he said.
Clarke suggested that India skipper Virat Kohli should make Dhoni bat at No.5 on a consistent basis to have the kind of impact Andrew Symonds had for Australia.
“I am really interested to see where Virat bats him in the Champions Trophy. I would bat him at No.4 in T20 cricket and 5 in ODIs like Australia did with Andrew Symonds. His experience, his skill will play a huge role if India is to win the trophy,” he said.