No-one talks about Dhoni's 'final' problem

Last Updated: Thu, May 24, 2018 14:11 hrs

First things first! MS Dhoni is probably one of greatest champions produced in the history of international cricket from the nineteenth century.

The number of victories he has achieved as captain and batsman, nobody comes close. He is probably the all-time greatest shorter formats captain in the world. He also has the greatest number of winning shots too.

However, even his illustrious international career can be divided into two halves. The first is from 2007-13 when he was near invincible as captain.

The second is from 2014 when by some standards he has been even more consistent but has curiously almost always faltered at the final hurdle in multi-team tournaments. It has almost become a jinx.

From 2007-13 as captain, Dhoni entered three ICC tournament finals. He won all three of them. During that period he also became the only Indian to win a tri-series tournament in Australian soil and also reclaimed the Asia Cup.

In the 2014 T20 World Cup, we won all our league matches, chased a target of 173 in the semis and then had a brain freeze in the finals. We made a paltry 130 despite Virat Kohli blasting 77 off 58 balls. We lost to Sri Lanka.

A similar thing happened in the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy. We topped the group, won in the semi-final by 9 wickets with close to 10 overs to spare and had a brain freeze in the final where we were thrashed by 180 runs, which was an unprecedented margin in a CT final.

Of course, Virat Kohli was captain, but Dhoni watched helplessly too.

In the 2015 ODI World Cup, we gave our best ever league performance, winning 7/7 matches, but more astonishingly taking 70/70 wickets that were on offer. We were thrashed in the semis.

In the 2016 T20 World Cup too we perished in the semis despite setting a stiff target of 193 for the West Indies.

But nowhere is this difference more pronounced for Dhoni than the IPL world. Dhoni's golden period here in terms of winning was 2010-11 when he won two IPL titles and a Champions League title.

Then in an amazing reverse turnaround, Dhoni has now lost four finals in a row. Dhoni's team entered the finals in 2012, 2013, 2015 & 2017 and lost all four of them. Now that's quite a jinx and if Dhoni loses again in 2018, it will be five in a row! That's quite an uncomfortable statistic.

In the 2012 IPL final, Chennai Super Kings put up a formidable 190/3 thanks to a 73 off 38 by Suresh Raina. When captain Gautam Gambhir fell in the first over, CSK looked set for a third title, but Manvinder Bisla hit an astonishing 89 off 48 balls to take the Kolkata Knight Riders home.

In the 2013 final CSK fans thought that they would finally get their third IPL title when Mumbai Indians made a paltry 148/9. However, CSK failed to make the cut despite an unbeaten 63 off 45 by Dhoni as they ended up with just 125.

It was third time unlucky for the third title in 2015. This time CSK never seemed to have a chance. Mumbai Indians made 202 while CSK was never in the game and ended up at 161. Then CSK had to miss 2016 and 2017 as they were suspended.

However, Dhoni continued with the good work in Rising Pune Supergiant. RPS lost three of their first four matches in 2017, but came back in roaring style and finished second. They beat MI quite comfortably in the Qualifier (Dhoni took his revenge on Rohit Sharma for 2015) by 20 runs.

However, they faced MI in the final again and their opponents had a brain freeze and set a paltry target of just 130. Surely Dhoni would finally get his third IPL title even though this time it was for RPS!

However, Dhoni's final jinx continued and he failed to shut Mumbai out. With such a low target, the chase shouldn't have gone to the final ball, but it did. Dhoni got out for just 10, but still, RPS needed a boundary of the last ball to win. In fact, they needed 3 to tie and the luck of all lucks, the RPS batsman got run out while going for the third run!

With that MI became the most successful IPL team winning three titles (they beat CSK to it) to add to their two Champions League titles.

Of course during this period Dhoni and CSK did add another Champions League title in 2014 but when it came to an IPL final, Dhoni's golden touch seems to have deserted him.

So come Sunday and it will be Dhoni's whopping fifth attempt to get his third IPL title. Who would have thought that?

So is Dhoni facing a final jinx? We don't know that, but if he is, then the slayer of many jinxes for Team India in the past is the best person to slay his own jinx once and for all.

The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger. He blogs here

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