What is luck? One of Oxford Dictionary's definitions of the word describe it as "chance considered as a force that causes good or bad things to happen".
For years, since he won that first World T20 in 2007 and ushered in a new era in Indian cricket, MS Dhoni has been given a street name of "lucky captain". Take a trip around India and you'll find the Indian captain's name intertwined with myth, lore, love and luck among the cricket faithfuls.
In fact, according to them, Dhoni is India's own Midas. Everything he touches turns to gold. He has been appreciated, admired, worshipped and often criticised in his innings as the captain of the Indian cricket team. He has assimilated trophies of all kinds, won the World Cup, chased down improbable targets, snatched victories while walking a tightrope, balancing eight earthen pots on his head, juggling five Kookaburra balls, and charming a snake simultaneously. Lucky.
For lack of a better word, people call Dhoni lucky. So he is, by definition, a force that causes good or bad things to happen. Good for India, bad for opponents. Good for India, bad for Bangladesh.
Now, when we have reached the bridge, let's get a few flagrant but true statements from THAT game out of the way before we cross it.
- Mashrafe Mortaza was the better captain on the night.
- Hardik Pandya didn't win India the game, in fact all his earnest efforts in that last over misfired and the promising youngster could've ended up as the villain.
- India don't have a strong batting line-up, they just have Virat Kohli.
- There has never been, nor will there ever be another Mahendra Singh Dhoni in cricket.
Dhoni wasn't his usual self as a captain on the night. In fact he hasn't been himself in all of World T20 so far. For instance, in the game against Pakistan, he didn't play his spinner card well . Against Bangladesh, there was a time in the match when every Indian fan was wondering, "Why isn't he giving Yuvraj the ball? Aren't spinners doing the trick?"
But Dhoni continued with Pandya, whose first two overs were very costly and almost derailed the carefully laid plans. Mortaza, on the other hand, came out with a plan: he was lucky to win the toss but thereafter used his bowlers really well, made excellent field placements and restricted India to a sub-150 total. A job well done.
His batting plans were executed really well too, at least till the scoreboard read 19.3. In fact, until those last three balls in the final over, Bangladesh stayed true to the script, didn't panic and for all purposes, were over the finishing line when they needed just two off the last three ball. India should have lost the game, they had no business winning it. Pandya was all around the park under pressure and Dhoni was staring at pointed questions at the post-match media conference and scathing articles over his captaincy.
But instead, the legend of Dhoni has another chapter to it after Wednesday night. Another bit of myth attached to the man.
So, what happened? For lack of a better phrase, luck kicked in. Dhoni kicked in.
Dhoni didn't have a particularly good time with the bat. No one from India did. Neither was he a shining example of leadership throughout the game. But behind the stumps, Dhoni was a demi-god.
It was not Dhoni the captain who won India the game, it was Dhoni the wicket-keeper, Dhoni the phenomenon, Dhoni the anomaly, Dhoni the force.
The Indian captain's stumpings to send Tamim Iqbal and Sabbir Rahman back to their dressing room were top-of-the-line stuff. Him running-out Mustrafizur Rahman (he literally outran him) on that last delivery was even better.
Dhoni, in anticipation that he may need to effect a run-out, already had his right glove out as Pandya ran in to bowl that last ball. The youngster was smiling nervously and it didn't seem as if he had a very clear idea of what he was about to do. You know how sometimes particular postures restrict blood-flow to our feet and you get all the needles and pins, like Pop-Rocks? That was all of Pandya in that last over. He was a nervous wreck.
Dhoni on the opposite end of the pitch was cool. It seemed he had mapped every little detail before the ball was even delivered. That newcomer Shuvagata Hom would swing and miss and he would sprint and take out the stumps than taking aim and throwing the ball at it.
Dhoni has one of the smartest cricketing brains. He plays it like a game of chess, always thinking a few steps ahead. Even his spontaneous actions and decisions look premeditated. And doing all that with a poker face beats everything makes him the captain cool.
The photo that shows him standing like a cool cucumber as the team frantically celebrates around him after the win tells the story. His ability to maintain his wit under duress makes you believe he would be good at anything he did. And no one would still have any clue as to how he manages to do so.
There is an elemental thing about Dhoni. Something very immeasurable, undefinable, something beyond the limits of discussion and debate. Virat Kohli's technique, his drive through the covers, his consistency can be talked and written about. But Dhoni's "X-factor", another term that is just thrown about to shroud our inability to explain certain things, is still beyond our grasp.
How does he do it? What's the secret? How can he be so cool, so calm when everyone else is imploding? It's like he consciously keeps a billion hearts in a billion mouths by stretching the game to the final ball, and then does something so utterly awesome, so utterly Dhoni that the collective "phew" generated warms the entire country. No one can do that. There nothing, no one quite like him.
And the aura, the mystery around him is self-explanatory. Dhoni doesn't let much on. He talks mostly in riddles. He is the sort of guy you engage in a conversation and then come out knowing less about him than he does about you. There are hardly any good interviews of him. There are hardly any interviews of him at all.
So, while we all saw it on television as our jaws fell to the floor, the truth is we really will not be able to gauge how Dhoni did it. How did he decide to throw the ball to Pandya to bowl the last over when the young all-rounder had been smacked around earlier? How did he know to put Ravindra Jadeja at mid-wicket before the fifth ball so he could take that blinder of a catch of Mahmudullah? How did India clinch one of the greatest T20 victories in the last three balls when Bangladesh had been winning it for the first 239 (counting wides) of them? Until we know better, let's just call it luck.