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Vol. XXX No. 10, September 16-30, 2020

When Dhoni Knocked the Fight out of the Aussies at Chepauk

by Partab Ramchand

His durable and indelible association with Chennai Super Kings made MS Dhoni a great favourite with the Chepauk crowd. It may not be wrong to say that he was fussed and feted about and even worshipped more in this city than even in his native Ranchi. Forget the matches in which CSK was involved, even the practice games attracted over 10,000 spectators to the MAC stadium and for the vast majority of them Dhoni was the one who mattered. Shouts of “Dhoni, Dhoni” or “Mahi, Mahi” rent the air even as he just entered the ground or made his way to the crease. Probably no single player of any franchisee has enjoyed the kind of rapport with the crowd and the city as Dhoni did. For the “whistle podu” CSK fan he was simply “Thala”. They adopted him as one of their own and for all practical purposes he could have been born in Chennai rather in Ranchi. In any case he was a naturalized Chennaite.

Dhoni of course could do no wrong while playing for CSK but fortunately the Chepauk crowd saw their favourite come off on numerous occasions while representing India in all three formats of the game. In fact Dhoni made his Test debut in Chennai against Sri Lanka in December 2005 in a rain-hit, drawn, match badly ravaged by Cyclone Baaz. And while two of his ten ODI hundreds were notched up at Chepauk his best in Test cricket was also reserved for the hero-worshiping fans of this city.

The first Test against Australia during the 2012-13 season was played at Chennai in February 2013 and the visitors thanks in the main to skipper Michael Clark’e stroke-filled 130 put up a total of 380. Early on the third day India were 196 for four and the match clearly hung in the balance as Dhoni joined Virat Kohli. The two swung the balance slightly in India’s favour with a fifth wicket partnership of 128 before Kohli was out for 107. Wickets fell at regular intervals but Dhoni surged on getting more and more aggressive the longer he stayed at the crease. But when the eighth wicket fell at 406 late in the day the teams were very much on level terms given the fact that India would have to bat last on a fifth day surface.

This however was the signal for Dhoni to unveil the most glorious phase of his innings. The Australian bowling line-up of Mitchell Starc, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle and Nathan Lyon did not know what hit them as Dhoni launched a furious onslaught with the result that by the end of the day the Indian score had leapt to 515 for eight with Dhoni on 206. Bhuvneshwar Kumar (38) was content to play a supporting role to his captain who was out only on the fourth morning for 224 but not before the ninth wicket partnership had added 140 runs in 36 overs.

India were ultimately out for 572 but the Australians by now were a totally demoralized lot thanks to Dhoni’s pyrotechnics which included 24 fours and six sixes. Dhoni had faced just 265 balls in a stay of a fraction over six hours. The demoralized Aussies folded up for 241 in their second innings early on the fifth morning and the Indians hit up the required runs for the loss of two wickets to complete an emphatic victory.

Dhoni’s electrifying double hundred not only singed the Aussies but left them in such a shocked state of mind that they never recovered losing all four Tests of the series. Given the circumstances and the damaging impact it had on the visitors Dhoni’s 224 – the highest score by an Indian wicketkeeper – has to be one of the most significant knocks played by an Indian captain in Test history.

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