Indian cricket is replete with stories of MS Dhoni‘s innovative captaincy and quirky tactics, an instance of which was recently narrated by former Chennai Super Kings spinner Shadab Jakati, who was part of the side that beat Mumbai Indians in the IPL 2010 final.
Jakati looked back at that night recently, in an interview with Wisden India, and particularly remembered how Dhoni tipped the tie in Chennai’s favour when he instinctively changed the plan during the Mumbai chase and orchestrated Chennai’s win.
Pursuing 169 to win the title, Mumbai were steered out of a wobbly start by captain Sachin Tendulkar, who managed to put them into a solid position after 12 overs. “I had gone for 21 runs in my first two overs,” Jakati recalled. “With left-hander Abhishek Nayar batting, Dhoni told me I’d now bowl in the middle overs.”
At 74-3 and with Tendulkar on song, Mumbai looked on course, when Dhoni pressed Jakati into action. He gave away just seven runs in that over, his third, and in doing so pushed Mumbai’s required run-rate to 12.71.
The next over, worth 15 runs, brought some momentum back for Mumbai, but then, Dhoni sent Jakati in to bowl his final over. “[He kept] me for the right-handers – Sachin Tendulkar, Ambati Rayudu and Kieron Pollard. We had done our homework against MI’s right-handers, who were potentially weak against left-arm spinners.”
The move worked. Tendulkar pulled the first ball to the fence, but the second delivery saw him playing a checked shot to long-off, where he was caught for 48. Three balls later, Saurabh Tiwary was dismissed as well, and the game swung Chennai’s way decisively.
It was the same match where Dhoni had earned accolades for his famous move to force the dismissal of a rampant Kieron Pollard, by placing a straight mid-off and long-off exactly in line with each other. It challenged Pollard to hit down the ground, and he hit it down the fielder’s throat.
“In that particular match, he got Pollard out placing [Matthew] Hayden right behind the bowler,” Jakati said. “He did quite a few things. He used to know which bowler to bring on at what time. Basically, he was a captain who knew how to get the best out of the players at the right time.”
Jakati also revealed how Dhoni backed his gut instincts during the game, but also balanced it by giving the bowlers the freedom to make their own plans.
“He never attended any bowlers’ meeting,” Jakati said. “[That’s] purely because he backs his own instincts and gut feeling at that particular time of the match. He gave us freedom to choose our fields, and if it didn’t work, he’d use his brains. But the first preference was us.”