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Indian Premier League 2019

‘He wanted clarity’ – Fleming explains Dhoni’s last-over outburst

by Wisden Staff 3-minute read

The last over of a close match – and for once, MS Dhoni lost his cool, with the umpires at the receiving end.

On Thursday, April 11, Dhoni had taken Chennai Super Kings’ IPL 2019 game against Rajasthan Royals down to the wire. Chasing 152, Dhoni had combined with Ambati Rayudu to lead a recovery from 24-4. The duo made half-centuries in a typically well-paced innings, but Chennai were still left to get 18 off the last over.

Dhoni seemed set for one his trademark finishes, when he was bowled by a Ben Stokes yorker on the third legitimate ball of the final over. He had to walk back, but that wasn’t the last time he was on the field during the match: a ball later, he stormed back to argue with the umpires over a no-ball call.

With eight needed off three, Stokes sent down a full toss at Mitchell Santner. Umpire Ulhas Gandhe at the bowler’s end signalled no-ball, but his colleague Bruce Oxenford at square-leg overruled it, deeming the delivery not dangerous. Stokes had taken pace off and Santner was down the pitch.

The batsmen protested, and Dhoni, from outside the ropes, was uncharacteristically agitated. He eventually decided to walk onto the field to make his case – an unprecedented show of emotion from a man known for his cool demeanour. And so, an IPL that has already seen one Indian captain rail at the umpires for their decisions in the last over had more controversy.

While Virat Kohli didn’t get fined for his comments – “We are playing IPL, not club cricket. That’s just a ridiculous call” – after his team were denied a last-ball no-ball against Mumbai Indians, Dhoni wasn’t so lucky. He was asked to cough up 50% of his match fees for breaching the code of conduct.

The Chennai coach, Stephen Fleming, agreed that his captain was “certainly fired up”. “It’s unusual, but he’s usually pretty calculated,” he said in the post-match press conference.

Choosing to focus on the fact that Santner’s last-ball six had sealed a 100th IPL win as captain for Dhoni, Fleming added, “Dhoni as a captain is very successful, Dhoni as a player is outstanding. They’re both closely related.

“My understanding in discussing it with the captain was that there was a no-ball called, and then there was confusion. Our understanding was the umpire at the bowler’s end had called the no-ball, then there was confusion. MS was after some clarity and it didn’t seem to be coming, so he took the opportunity to go out and discuss it with the umpires.”

Other observers were less charitable. “Dhoni set a wrong precedent,” declared Aakash Chopra, while Michael Vaughan said, “This is not a good look for the game.”

The man himself seemed ready to speak his mind on the issue, opening the post-match presentation with a joke about it – only for the presenter to wilfully steer him clear of it.

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