Saturday, January 19, 2013

Dhoni seeks 'home' comfort in Ranchi against England

Jharkhand, as a state, is going through a crisis and is under President's rule, but that is only half the truth. Because the state capital is under Mahendra Singh Dhoni's spell. Go anywhere in the city, the talk is not about what is the way out of the political crisis or who one should vote for in the elections when they take place, people only want to know: "Mahi ka team jitega na" (Will Mahi's team win)? All eyes and ears are on Dhoni. So everybody's heart missed a beat on Friday morning, when India bowling coach Joe Dawes's delivery hit Dhoni's right thumb and he writhed in pain. The Indian captain remained cool, but everyone else screamed: "Ouch." Immediately, all the policemen, very attentive at their posts till then, were looking at Dhoni, organisers stood still, the journalists were on their feet. Ranchi's very own Mahi took an ice pack and went back to the pavilion, adding to the suspense. It needed logistics manager Satish's words to rule out everybody's worst fears. "It's nothing serious. He was hit on the right thumb, there was a minor swelling. That's all. We don't even need to an MRI scan or anything," he said. The emotional attachment is understandable. But would anyone be less anxious had the venue of Saturday's third ODI been different than Dhoni's hometown? Not really. Because wherever India plays, all hopes of the Indian cricket fan are usually rested on Dhoni. Here is a man who has maintained a batting average of over 50 in the last two years amidst the ruins, not to mention the catches he has taken and the stumpings and run-outs he has effected. While his captaincy has often looked premeditated and unimaginative, Dhoni the player has hardly let the team down. Once again, the wicketkeeper batsman will have to be at the top of his game; once again it is a crunch match. Going 2-1 ahead on Saturday will go a long way in keeping the danger of a series loss at bay. Perhaps Dhoni and his teammates have not played such a crucial ODI since the 2011 World Cup final. England, on the other hand, have approached this series as an extension of their developmental squad's assignments. They have not only rested key men like James Anderson, Graeme Swann, Stuart Broad and Jonathan Trott, team director Andy Flower has also taken a break. Despite that, the young side led by Alastair Cook is in the hunt for England's first ODI series victory here in almost two decades. One expected them to show some urgency in practice but they chose to take it easy. This is perhaps an indication of which team needs to win more badly.

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