Don't ever dangle a head in front of MS Dhoni. Not even a morphed picture of his own.
If you do, he will walk out with a swagger, chest puffed up, eyes blazing, a smirk curving his lips — like a proud gladiator challenged to a battle — and destroy you with two swings of his bat.
No sword, no gun. Yet, Dhoni will mercilessly demolish the hubris of a cricketing nation, silence its prayers, dismantle its hopes and teach a lesson to its Twitter trolls. With just two shots. Bang, bang, good night, man!
On Sunday night, just before the Indian team walked out to bowl in a game marred by rain, Ravi Shastri got his boys into a huddle. "Remember their celebration after they (Bangladesh) won the series. Now go out and do the bloody job," Shastri told them.
It was less an advice and more a call to arms for a team that had lost to Bangladesh in a one-day series just a year ago. But, nobody heard the game being played to the background score of 'badla, badla' or 'mauka, mauka'. Perhaps because a Bangladeshi fan had made the mistake of dreaming and tweeting that one of their bowlers can scalp Dhoni and there was a bigger score to settle. So, with the game tentatively poised in the final moments of the Asia Cup final, albeit in India's favour, out came Dhoni without a warning.
Chasing 121, India needed 22 at that stage, off 14 balls. 'Gabbar' Dhawan had just departed, caught at point to a ball that could have disappeared into the boundary on some other day.
On the crease, at the non-striker's end, was Virat Kohli, solid but a bit subdued. In the stands, devout young Bangladeshi men were praying for divine help, the girls were chewing their manicured nails out of existence, smudging their expensive lipstick in the process. In the commentary box, experts were wondering how many would Bangladeshi bowlers leave for their team to defend in the final over.
While the cameras were busy capturing the creases on Suresh Raina's forehead, Dhoni walked out to the crease, promoting himself, perhaps, for the first time in a final after winning for India the 2011 World Cup.
The first ball of the 13th over — it was a 15-over game because of rain — pitched just on the length, a shade outside off stump. Dhoni planted his foot on the track, swung his bat and deposited it 105 metres away into the midwicket boundary.
Most of the Bangladesh supporters stopped praying after this shot. Those who still had the temerity were silenced over the next three balls, with a four and a six that sailed over midwicket. Go home, boys. And don't lose your head.
This certainly wasn't Dhoni's best innings. In T-20, getting 20 runs off the last two overs is a luxury and off one a challenge. Perhaps, any other Indian batsmen could have taken India home in the final overs.
But, for his fans, Dhoni's arrival at the crease had its own symbolism. Just a day ago, a Bangladeshi fan had morphed a picture showing Dhoni's decapitated head in the hands of Taskin Ahmed.
Note then, even if it was just happenstance, Dhoni walked out when Taskin was bowling, perhaps to give him an opportunity to fulfill the morbid fantasy of Bangladeshi fans.
By the time he left, ending the game with his 20 runs off just six balls, his rivals had learnt when children play with fire, they inevitably burn their fingers, and his fans may have realised that they should jump only to the rescue of lesser mortals.
When he put the Asia Cup in his pocket with a six, like every title possible in cricket, Dhoni showed that he is back to what he does best: write the script of his life.
And, if the prologue is right, here is how the final chapter is likely to end: Dhoni will win us the T-20 World Cup and retire on a high note.
He will walk out with the head held high.
First Published On : Mar 7, 2016 22:33 IST