The third wicket falls.
“Tsk! He never converts his starts. He’s so good in the IPL. What’s he doing?”
“Damn it! If they picked [Insert name of your favorite IPL star] instead this wouldn’t have happened.”
As the 500th number four that India has tried out walks off the field, thousands of necks crane towards the pavilion at awkward angles. The children (and the vertically challenged) stand up on their tippy-toes.
They still cannot see. But they don’t need to. Nobody cheers that loudly for Kedar Jadhav.
Chants of “Dhoni Dhoni Dhoni Dhoni” engulf the stadium, more out of custom than excitement. For the majority of the crowd, it’s either an excuse to be loud or the symptom of one too many afternoon pints.
He asks the umpire for middle stump and marks his guard. He rests his bat on his thighs as he unstraps and re-straps his gloves.
The bowler, pep in his step, prepares to bowl to the legendary finisher.
The first delivery is blunted into the offside for either a dot or a single.
In his next few balls, he tries to play himself in, frustrating fans with a series of dots. He doesn’t get out, but he doesn’t get set.
The required rate rises.
Then he gets a few singles with the same nudge through the offside.
The required rate is still rising, but the crowd cheers every time he beats the in field.
Hope of a substantial innings. Hope that he can replicate his IPL exploits. Hope that he’s turned a page and that we will see the Dhoni of old.
The Dhoni of 2011.
Maybe even the long hair, “I don’t care,” helicopter-smashing, bike-riding Dhoni.
All this hope before he’s even hit a boundary.
“Dhoni form mein aayega,” [Dhoni will find his form] promises an uncle who is a diamond trader by profession and clearly moonlights as a fortuneteller.
Fans stare at him, questioning not only his prediction but also his IQ. Nobody backs him up, but they don’t verbalize their disagreement either.
After this brief distraction, all eyes are back on the cricket.
Suddenly, Dhoni gets one away and the ball is racing away to the boundary.
Chins leap off their palms. Beer-drinkers straighten their posture.
It looks like the ball is going to make it to the rope.
And it does!
Every able-bodied Indian in the crowd stands up.
“Dhoni Dhoni Dhoni”
Uncle wags his finger at aunty. “Maine bola tha na?” [I told you, didn’t I?]
As the sound of the classic party track playing on the giant speakers fades away, half of the crowd sits down. Some of them stay standing, leading a “Jeetega bhai Jeetega” chant.
Some are standing in anticipation of another boundary.
It doesn’t come. Instead, the next ball is nudged into the offside for either a dot or a single.
There’s still time though. Boundaries of successive balls don’t happen all the time. At least the latest boundary has bought India some breathing space.
But subsequent balls are worked away on the leg-side and through the covers for either a dot or a single.
The required rate, which had come down after the boundary, is back to its pre-boundary level.
India needs another boundary. Immediately.
But the supporters are treated to either a dot or a single.
Uncle doesn’t feel very prophetic anymore. He gets up from his seat and returns with a pint after two overs.
“Tsk. Such a big ground and they don’t serve whiskey,” sighs uncle, whose disappointment is justified.
He takes his seat letting out another sigh.
“So what did I miss?”
Well, uncle, you missed a nudge off the pads and a nudge through the covers interspersed with a few dot balls.
You also missed the required rate skyrocket to a level that would challenge Andre Russell.
Oh, look at that. A spinner has just rushed through a maiden.
Then comes the dismissal.
Dhoni chops the ball onto the stumps/lobs it to a man inside the circle/is caught LBW after missing one that comes back in.
Hands are on heads. Hands are covering mouths. Flags are not waiving. Uncle is checking Uber rates, so he can avoid a surcharge later on.
On one hand, the cricketing gods were merciful enough to pull the plug on another Dhoni special.
On the other hand, balls have been wasted, momentum has been sucked out of India’s chase, and the new pair at the crease is tasked with the impossible.
Thank you, MSD.
Mention Drool over Dhoni’s past achievements in order to
appease Twitter trolls. Work in the elevation to No.4 in World Cup 2011 Final before
making your point. Do not mention that it was 8 years ago and that people
should move on)
My Calculus 101 professor in college took half the semester to go through a tenth of the syllabus. With final exams on the horizon, my classmates and I were running out of time and had to go to the tutoring center to catch up.
But our dear old professor (half-decent guy actually) was tenured and could not lose his job.
He also wore the same brown sweater every day. I mention that because I don’t remember his name.
Dhoni is like Professor Brown Sweater. Those who bat around him are like the tutors in the tutoring center. Much like the tutors had to teach us the entire syllabus in 6 weeks, India’s batting line-up has often had to do the heavy lifting once Dhoni has eaten up precious deliveries.
Dhoni is a tenured member of Team India.
Another intent-less knock in a high run chase will not cost him his spot in the XI.
But will it cost India the World Cup?