Should MS Dhoni be criticised whenever he plays a slow innings? Maybe, but when he follows that up with a special innings, like the one against West Indies at Old Trafford in Match 34 of the World Cup, the kind of innings he played against Afghanistan should just be forgotten as a one-off failure.
Dhoni did not set Manchester on fire on Thursday. Atleast not at the start of his innings. But, his 61-ball unbeaten 56 was as important as Virat Kohli's 72 or Hardik Pandya's 38-ball 46.
There are three reasons why Dhoni's first half century of the ongoing World Cup came at the most appropriate time.
When he walked in, India were 140 for 4 in 28.5 overs. Yes, there was a set Virat at the other end, but the Indian captain needed a lot of support at the other end if India were to get a competitive total.
Dhoni started his innings in the same way he played against Afghanistan. Slow. His first 20 runs came off 40 deliveries. A lot of dot balls but with a lot of overs left, he needed to stay at the crease as there was only Hardik Pandya to follow as far as proper batsmen were concerned.
Dhoni and Virat had added 40 before the Indian captain was sent back by Jason Holder in the 39th over.
The second and the most important reason why Dhoni's knock is special comes into the picture now.
Hardik joined Dhoni at the crease and this was the last recognised pair of the Indian innings. Dhoni, once again played second fiddle as Hardik played at more than a run-a-ball that swiftly took India past the 250-run mark. The two added 70 runs off 60 balls for the sixth wicket.
The second ball of the 49th over saw Hardik walk back to the pavilion with the team score on 250.
That brings us to the third reason why Dhoni's presence till the 50th over was very crucial.
The former India captain had ten balls to take India to a competitive total. As has been the case in the past, Dhoni had to make sure he played most of the deliveries. Though, he got to face just seven deliveries. The last three balls of the 49th over resulted in no runs
Dhoni now had just six balls for himself. By the time the Indian innings ended, Dhoni had smashed 16 runs off Thomas, recorded his 72nd ODI fifty and finished another unbeaten innings.
All this made sure India reached a score of 268, not a huge score but a competitive one.
Dhoni had indeed played a special knock. If his first 20 runs came off 40 balls, his next 36 runs took just 21 deliveries.
This innings too was played at less than a run-a-ball, but looking at India's up-and-down performance with the bat at Old Trafford, will anyone complain?
Maybe, time has come when no one is supposed to judge MS Dhoni.