It was fire and ice treatment at the Chepauk on Sunday evening. While Hardik Pandya (83 off 66 balls) showed why he is being considered by many as India’s long-term solution to the allrounder problem, MS Dhoni (79 off 88) proved yet again why he is still India’s No.1crisis-man on a tricky surface.
In 2015, it was at the Chepauk that Pandya announced himself on the big stage with a match-winning innings for Mumbai Indians in the IPL against Dhoni’s Chennai Super Kings. On that day, Pandya was a complete unknown quantity and Dhoni had no clue how to stop the swashbuckler.
Two years have gone by and Dhoni knows what Pandya’s strengths are and he beautifully guided the Baroda player during the course of their 118-run sixth wicket stand in 19 overs. India were 87 for 5, the ball was stopping a bit and for a player like Pandya who loves to attack. It wasn’t easy.
But the allrounder showed the maturity to first get used to the pace of the pitch before trying anything remotely adventurous. Dhoni, by then, had spent some time in the middle and he knew how to deal with the pitch. He kept talking to Pandya, telling him not to lose his head and wait for his chance. “I have learnt a lot from Dhoni over the years. He constantly kept telling me how to change things up and it was a pleasure playing with him,” Pandya said at the end of the innings.
The fact that Pandya was ready to play the waiting game paid dividends as late as the 37th over. He launched into legspinner Adam Zampa and kept hitting him straight, taking 24 runs off him.
“I know that if I am able to connect, I can clear the straight boundary. So even if there was a long-on and long-off, I didn’t mind going straight,” Pandya said.
But the beauty of Dhoni’s innings was the manner in which he kept himself under a leash. MSD has played a lot of cricket at Chepauk and he is the darling of the crowd here, but he made no effort to show his own heroics as long as Pandya was there.
Dhoni’s first boundary of the innings came as late as the 67th ball, but there was nothing impatient about his approach. For three-fourths of his innings, Dhoni had a below-50 strike-rate, but somewhere there was always a belief he could accelerate if and when necessary.