If there is a straightforward mathematical possibility of getting the remaining runs in the last over then any bowler and opposition captain would feel the pinch seeing MS Dhoni on strike.
It doesn’t matter whether he has just come in to bat or is well-settled, it doesn’t matter whether he is 41 now and not the sassy boy with long hair, if Dhoni is in the middle, the match is not over, it simply can’t be. Ask Sanju Samson and Sandeep Sharma about the pressure they must have felt seeing Dhoni stand in the middle even though 21 runs were required off the last over. And he almost, for the umpteenth time, pulled it off during the Chennai Super Kings vs Rajasthan Royals IPL 2023 match.
Needing 21 to win off the final six balls, Dhoni hit Sandeep Sharma for consecutive sixes in the second and the third ball of the over to send the jam-packed Chepauk crowd into a frenzy. But despite all this, RR captain Sanju Samson and pacer Sandeep Sharma did not buckle under pressure. They knew anything can happen as Dhoni was at bludgeoning best but they did not allow that thought to cloud their planning.
The RR players were not seen huddling around Sandeep, who was tasked with the most difficult job in the world at that point in time. And the 29-year-old delivered. He bowled three good deliveries but none better than the picture-perfect yorker when 5 runs were needed off the last ball to seal a three-run win for his side.
But coming to think of it, it should have been an easy win for RR, at least that’s exactly what it looked like till the 18th over of the CSK innings. CSK needed 41 off two overs. But no one in the RR camp, including captain Samson, felt the match was over. It was because of MS Dhoni for he has the uncanny knack of doing the unthinkable.
“Did you feel you had the game in your pocket in the last two overs?” asked Sanjay Manjrekar in the post-match presentation and Samson, in a brilliant show of admiration and perhaps a bit of devotion for Dhoni, said “never”. Throughout his answer Samson referred to Dhoni as “that guy” and not once named the legendary cricketer.
| ‘I would’ve hit it for six if.’: Dhoni on Sandeep’s last over; slams CSK batters
“No sir, never when you have that guy (MS Dhoni) in the middle,” he told Manjrekar. “You have to respect that guy and know what he can do in the middle. Everyone was involved and the match is not over till the last ball. I do a lot of planning, research and sit down with the data team but a lot of calls have to be taken inside the ground looking at who is bowling well at what point. I only played two balls but I’m drained as if I have scored a hundred. A lot of thoughts are going around,” Samson added.
When Manjrekar asked if Samson and his RR data team had any numbers or plans to stop Dhoni, the RR keeper and captain gave a brilliant answer.
“What data do you have on that guy you have just mentioned?” Manjrekar asked. “Nothing. Nothing works, no date, nothing,” said Samson.
Dhoni remained unbeaten on 32 off 17 balls with three sixes but CSK fell three short of RR’s 175/8. Devon Conway did hit a half-century but the likes of Shivam Dube, Moeen Ali and Ambati Rayudu failed to get going in the middle overs.
Earlier, Jos Buttler’s 36-ball 52 and some late hitting from Shimron Hetmyer enabled RR to a good total on a pitch that was stopping and offering turn to the spinners on the odd occasions.