Cricket Column: The Kohli-Dhoni mysterious smile in the end: More to it than met the eye?

Sports Saturday 04/February/2017 15:38 PM
By: Times News Service
Cricket Column: The Kohli-Dhoni mysterious smile in the end: More to it than met the eye?

The beauty of India’s 75-run victory in the third T20 match played at Bengaluru on Wednesday lay in the enchanting way it happened, wrapped in silky confidence cleverly masked in misleading innocence, leaving nothing sensible for England to offer as excuses for the defeat that cost them the series.
Controversial on-field umpire Chettithodi Shashuddin pulled out of the game and, instead, took his seat as the TV umpire. Joe Root, who was erroneously given out lbw in the last over at Nagpur and which was perceived as one of the reasons for England losing the match, was trapped in front of the wicket —plump, said English commentator Nasser Hussain and the TV replays confirmed that the ball hit right in line with Root’s off stump.
Root was even let off in the previous over as the ball popped out of Rishabh Pant’s hands after Yuvraj collided with him. No catch off a nick was denied to England. No fair shout for lbw went unheard. No Indian player, when batting, bowling or fielding, enjoyed any unwitting favour from the umpires. And an Indian wicket was unfairly lost owing to umpiring lapses as KL Rahul had to walk back to the dressing room getting out to a no ball umpires had failed to call.
The Indian victory was authentic and emphatic just as it was brutal and beautiful.
India had a poignant start to the day when Virat Kohli was run out in the second over, with just four runs on the board. He was visibly angry with himself, but there was no reason for him to take his frustration out on his batting partner for not responding to a poor call that seemed to have come out of confusion amid English shouts for lbw.
Rahul looked distraught. The incident could have thrown the opener out of his mind and forced him into committing something silly that could have cost India another early wicket. Luckily, Rahul went on to hit two crisp boundaries and raised the roof with a 98m six before being given out on a no ball that went unnoticed.
TV replays showed that Ben Stokes had overstepped the line. What should have been a free hit and a harmless opportunity for a good heave for Rahul eventually turned out to be a nasty, unfair blow for India that might have handed the momentum back to England.
But the man who came in at No. 4, MS Dhoni, had an awesome reputation for dealing with such hopeless situations and turning things in favour of India. In the company of MS, Raina calmed himself down when needed and exploded when suited that laid the platform for Yuvraj Singh to romance the crowd in the 18th over, hitting three crisp sixes and a four that changed the game.
Kohli was spoiled for choice at the end of the match to come up with his pick of the moment that changed the game in India’s favour. Was it the 13th over bowled by Amit Mishra when he conceded just three runs, almost got Root out but for the dropped catch and undid the damage caused by Raina’s 12th that was milked by Eoin Morgan and Root for 22 runs? Or the 14th bowled by Yuzvendra Chahal when he sent both Morgan and Root back and switched England into the self-destruction mode?
Kohli had a different pick. His choice was the 18th over when Yuvraj rocked the English boat with elegant hits that seemingly masked the approach and attitude of the man: Arrogance and contempt wrapped in silky confidence and easy grace.
Apart from these game-changing moments, there is one that called for our attention, and that was the subdued innings played by Dhoni. Just two sixes, both sedate by his standard. Five fours, some of them crossing the rope thanks to deft placements — something the ex-skipper had seldom done in the past. His cool presence in the middle — right from the eighth over when the score was 65 for two to the second ball of the last over, when the score was 190 — helped Raina to bloom, Yuvraj to calm before the storm and India to get past the 200-mark.
In the end, the poignant image of Kohli standing in the middle upset with himself and Rahul for getting run out in the second over got replaced with the exuberant snapshot of the Indian team locked in heaps of hugs and, a little later, marching off the field, with Kohli and Dhoni glancing at each other with a thick, mysterious smile lighting up their face.
What were they smiling at? Was there something that we missed to spot?

The writer is a freelance contributor based in India. All the views and opinions expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of Times of Oman