Throwback Thursday | MS Dhoni - Hardik Pandya stage unlikely comeback win for India against Bangladesh

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MS Dhoni double teamed with Hardik Pandya to lead India to a victory


Throwback Thursday | MS Dhoni - Hardik Pandya stage unlikely comeback win for India against Bangladesh

Welcome to the series where we present you a moment, a game in history that has shaped the way the sport has been played, in our weekly segment ‘Throwback Thursday'. This week, we look at India’s unlikely win against Bangladesh in the do-or-die encounter in WT20 2016 that left fans hysteric.

It is March 23, 2016, and we are at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru, where the mighty Indians are facing their neighbours Bangladesh in a do-or-die encounter in the World T20. There is only one side which can come out on the top, we have already reached well past 10.30 PM on the clock and the crowd are biting their finger-nails. The game still stands in favour of Bangladesh, who are just one hit away from beating India for the first time in T20 cricket. The only hope for the Indian team is the all-rounder from Baroda, Hardik Pandya, who stands between a victory and a defeat for the home side in his first ever ICC tournament. On the other end of the wicket, there is the familiar figure of Mustafizur Rahman, who just needs to get some part of his bat on the ball to ensure the tourists leave ecstatic, with two runs needed off one ball.  But hold your horses, there is a need for us to know how and why we got here in the first place. 

Since the 2007 ICC World Cup, the two Asian sides have had an extended go at each other, with Bangladesh knocking India out of the competition. After the 2007 debacle, the Indian team ensured they got their sweet-revenge when they faced the Tigers in the 2011 edition of the World Cup, making the tigers look like a bunch of cats at their own den. 

While far from done, their rivalry had slowly started to grow more and more with time, post 2011. The two teams were, in fact, at the scruff of each other’s neck ever since the 2011 debacle. India were hysteric after the win in the 2011 edition, and they once again came out on top in the 2013 Champions Trophy, winning the tournament unbeaten, and they had the best chance of holding all the three titles at once in the 2014 edition of the World T20, at the home of their rivals, Bangladesh. 

Kohli’s 319 runs throughout the competition ensured they were there at the summit, against Sri Lanka, with the chance of completing a historic cricket-treble, but cometh the final, Yuvraj Singh’s scratchy knock coupled with some lacklustre bowling left India highly disappointed with them a stone-throw away from completing one of the greatest trebles in cricket. Going into the 2016 edition at home, the pressure was definitely on India, specifically on Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni, to pull all the necessary strings to make inroads in the tournament. 

They trusted the likes of Ajinkya Rahane, Manish Pandey, Harbhajan Singh and Ashish Nehra on their IPL form ahead of the mega-event. The Indian skipper’s trust on the left-handed all-rounder Yuvraj Singh, too, was still seen as bright as a burst of sunshine. The first game was against New Zealand, against whom the home side had a relatively poor record.

At Nagpur, batting first, India’s bowling attack did very well to restrict the visitors to 126/7, but MS Dhoni and co’s terrible batting performance ensured that they were instead thrown upon to be attacked by the media. To everyone outside the team, this game was not a rare occurrence, with India’s fragile batting yet again at the forefront, with Yuvraj Singh being a part of the lineup. All they could manage was a paltry 79, leaving them cold in the very first encounter of the competition. 

However, they followed it up with a resounding victory over arch-rivals Pakistan, in Kolkata, with Virat Kohli leading the side from the front. The Punjabi all-rounder Yuvraj Singh, meanwhile, scored a vital 23-ball 24 in that encounter to cleanse his battered reputation. However, despite the win, India were still far away from the form they desired to be, at the latter half of the tournament. They still had to pick up the pace and their next encounter against Bangladesh seemed to be the perfect opportunity for them to do so.

This led us to the mouth-watering contest which in the past has been rarely competitive, with games more or less being heavily one-sided. So we are here in Bengaluru, with the visitors fielding first on the night. After a strong start by Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan, the scoring rate fell flat on India's face. Scoring runs never looked tougher than on that night in Bengaluru ever in history, with batsmen struggling to connect the ball with their willow. 

But despite the struggle, the Men in Blue put on 146 runs on board in one of the most pressure-infused encounters for the country in recent history. Chasing 147, pumped up after a strong bowling display, the visitors, however, got off to a slow start as Ravichandran Ashwin was yet again amongst wickets in Bengaluru. For MS Dhoni and co, it was one down, nine to go and for the Tigers, it was a dreaded start. However, slowly but steadily, despite the shaky start, thanks to some clever batting from the middle order, the Tigers were building themselves towards the Indian total, in a rather emphatic fashion. 

Before the crowd knew and realised, the visitors just needed ten runs from the last over. For the first time in the match, the crowd went cold - given that India were on the receiving end. And with a spot in the next round potentially at stake, India’s skipper, Dhoni, tossed the ball casually to Hardik Pandya, with Mahmadullah on strike.

A single and two boundaries later, the equation was fairly within control for the visitors. The celebrations were out, prematurely, with Mushfiqur Rahim showcasing his emotions just after the second boundary of the over. Everything was right there - turning it from a tense-encounter to an ugly one. But with two runs needed off three balls, a brain-fade ensues among both set batsmen, Rahim and Mahmudullah, both of who spoon hittable deliveries straight to the fielders at deep. And all of a sudden, in the blink of an eye, the equation was down to two needed off one ball. So, this it. On strike is Mustafizur, and with the ball in his hand is Hardik Pandya, who is playing his first ever major tournament. At stake for Bangladesh is an opportunity to knock India out of the World T20, while for the Men in Blue, it is yet another chance to extend their unbeaten run in the format over their arch rivals, inflict pain on them and keep themselves alive in the tournament. Pandya could either become the hero that he has always dreamt of becoming or this could, in fact, be the last dance for Yuvraj Singh and certain others. 

Welcome to a moment in history

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