Feb 2006: Boom Boom Dhoni

A month that began with Sri Lanka frightening the life out of the Australians in the VB Series finals as Tillakaratne Dilshan ran out four Green and Gold batsmen, and ended with another limp West Indian capitulation – this time to a Nathan Astle-inspired New Zealand outfit – contained many a candidate for a player of the month. Astle and Dilshan led the way, Andrew Symonds showed the world exactly why his is one of the most feared names at number five on a batting card, and in the subcontinent India and Pakistan exchanged run upon run in boundary-laden ODI runchases.

February also saw the cricket world’s first sights of the names Piyush Chawla, Moises Henriques, Anwar Ali and Jamshaid Ahmed. The Under 19 World Cup was the story of the middle of the month, as the pick of the globe’s young talents vied for the title. Pakistan’s seam attack, powered by Anwar and Jamshaid, laid waste to the Australian and Indian sides under the Premadasa lights to retain the title, whilst Chawla capped an impressive tournament with a call-up to the Indian Test squad.

Pakistan’s senior side, however, missed the incision of their colts’ pacemen.
Missing Shoaib Akhtar and with Rana Naved-ul-Hasan scraping the bottom of the form barrel, it was left to Shoaib Malik to steady the home ship with a series of mature innings at number three in the order. Yuvraj Singh was the only man to outscore the Pakistani number three, anchoring his side to victory in three of their four successful chases. However, whilst Yuvraj provided the ballast, Mahendra Singh Dhoni provided the incendiaries.

The wicketkeeper crossed fifty in three of his four innings, the fourth terminating at two not out as the Indian top order completed the job before he was needed. Nevertheless, his other three innings exploded into life – scores of 68, 72* and 77* yielding a total return of 217 from just 155 deliveries. Yet there was more beyond the raw statistics. Exactly 150 of the 24-year-old from Jharkhand’s runs came in boundaries – thirty on the bounce, and five more on the full.

Suddenly, eighty runs required from the final ten overs was no longer enough. There was no longer a point of safety defending a total. Something was always on. With twelve months to go until the beginning of the World Cup in the West Indies, Indian ODI cricket is in good health once more – and the pulse of their heartbeat is orchestrated by Dhoni.

Cricket Web Player of the Month
February 2006

Mahendra Singh Dhoni

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