MS Dhoni was extremely pleased to have rediscovered his batting best during the IPL 2021 Qualifier 1 against Delhi Capitals on Sunday, which Chennai Super Kings won with two balls to spare to romp into the finals. Dhoni walked in with 24 needed of 11, and struck unbeaten 18 of six to seal the deal.
Faf du Plessis (1) was castled by Anrich Nortje in the first over of Chennai Super Kings’ run-chase of 173, before Ruturaj Gaikwad (70) and Robin Uthappa (63) added 110 in 12.5 overs to put their side well within reach.
The sailing wasn’t as smooth for CSK though, as they stumbled from 113/1 to 119/4 within a space of seven balls. Gaikwad fell on the first ball of the 19th, leaving CSK needing 24 off 11, with skipper MS Dhoni stepping in. Dhoni unleashed his dominant best, striking a meaty six off Avesh Khan off his second ball, before sealing the deal with three fours in the final over.
Dhoni reflected on his innings, and the highly impressive campaign until this point, after having failed to qualify to the playoffs last season.
"My innings was a crucial one,” said Dhoni after the match. “Delhi has a very good bowling attack. They exploited the conditions well, so we knew it would be tough. I've not done a lot in the tournament, so I wanted to look for the ball and see what the bowler could do.
“I was batting well in the nets but wasn't thinking too much. If you think too much while batting then you mess your plans up. Shardul has done decent batting, as has Deepak. He/they are allowed to go for the shots from the first ball unlike other top-order batters.
“Robin enjoys batting at the top but Moeen has been excellent at No. 3. But we have created a situation where either of them could bat at No. 3 depending on the situation and the opposition.
“Last season was the first time we didn't qualify into the playoffs. But we wanted to just make use of the 3-4 games left last season, and a lot of our batters made use of that. That is the reason why we have come back strongly this season.”
Earlier, Gaikwad became the third CSK batsman to aggregate 600 or more IPL runs in a single season, after Michael Hussey (2013) and Ambati Rayudu (2018), and currently stands at 602 at 43.38, 23 behind Orange Cap holder KL Rahul.
The skipper was in high praise for the youngster.
“Whenever Ruturaj and I have a chat, it's a simple chat. I want to know what he was thinking. It's good to see how well he has improved. He is someone willing to bat 20 overs,” said Dhoni.
Gaikwad was pleased with a highly fruitful season, and looked back at the match-winning performance.
"I try to stay neutral. Every game is new so I need to start afresh, need to start new,” said the 24-year-old as he received the Player of the Match award. “The powerplay was the crucial stage, the wicket was holding a little bit. Robin batted really well, took on bowlers. It got easier for me to stay there till the end. At times you have to take the odd risk. You have to take it one over at a time, so that the required rate doesn't go up too much. Want to stay humble."