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The little things that Dhoni does

by Gaurav Sethi

And the big difference they make
He’s Dhoni. That image tends to tower over everything, and make us almost overlook those little things he does on a cricket field. Like the singles he took against Bangladesh. There were five of them off the bat. Then there was the leg bye, which at that time appeared to be a missed boundary.
A while back, under pressure in a post-match interview, when Dhoni wasn’t scoring that many, he emphasised the importance of byes and leg byes – that even though they weren’t off the bat and added to the individual’s score, they were all important runs. It sounded almost needy. As if the great Dhoni was taking the support of extras. India beat Bangladesh by one run. Was it that leg bye?
Dhoni’s innings lasted a minute shy of half an hour. In addition to those five singles and one leg bye, there was a solitary boundary and two twos. The second two was on the last ball of the 20th over. It was a yorker, he dug it out, ran the first hard, but then something happened. His non-striker, Ashwin, not surprisingly, wasn’t keen on the second. He rarely is. Ashwin almost stood his ground. Dhoni didn’t.  Ashwin had to run the second.  He didn’t make his crease in time. But then neither did the ball. It went to Dhoni’s end. Dhoni had completed the second run. India reached 146. Bangladesh made 145. Was the difference the second run that Dhoni took?
Sabbir Rahman is on the charge. It’s 69/2 in the 10th over, Bangladesh are running away with it like 2007 all over again. Raina comes on to bowl his first and last over. The third ball is wide down leg. Sabbir fails to connect, Dhoni removes the bails, appeals. It seems like one of those innocuous appeals, just checking? Not so. It was perfectly timed. In that fleeting moment when Sabbir lost balance and had his foot off the ground, Dhoni removed the bails. Was that the moment Bangladesh lost it?
The last ball of the Bangladesh innings. Bangladesh needs one to tie, two to win. After a conference befitting the last ball of an innings when Ashish Nehra is in the team, Hardik Pandya’s hairdo sets off to bowl. It’s short outside off, Shuvagata Hom misses it. And runs. Everyone runs. Hom runs. Mustafizur runs. To score one run. Eleven Indians on the field run. To stop one run.
Dhoni, who had removed his right glove before the ball was bowled, collects the short wide ball outside off. And runs. Dhoni doesn’t throw. Dhoni runs. To. The. Stumps. Dhoni smashes the stumps. Mustafizur Rahman fails to complete the single. Bangladesh lose by a single. Was this the single India won by? The single where Dhoni ran, where you and I ran to our TVs?
Yeah, that was it. It always will be the one. It’ll be one of those big things that Dhoni does. The one that will make the highlights, the reruns, the "India Glorious" packages, the idiotic smile on your face, the "I-was-alive-when-Dhoni-ran-gloveless" comment.
Reckon Dhoni knows to make it to that last ball of the last over to save the last run that India had left to save, there was some dirty work to be done. A legbye, a second run, a cheeky stumping, you never know when it all adds up to something big, little by little.

First published here

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