Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Shahid Afridi – Old World Charm of pinch hitters turned captains
In the face of the pressure of playing at Eden Gardens and in a do or die game cricket pundits and fans marveled Dhoni’s captaincy as he changed his bowlers 10 times in 18 overs. Dhoni did more than just keep his cool, as he influenced the result of the match and led India to a win. In an 18 over a side match, it is very easy to lose focus and attempt the unsuccessful. Right from the toss, Dhoni looked like he was making a smart choice as he chose to bowl first on a turning pitch. Gutsy like most captains ought to be Dhoni stuck to the same team from the loss against New Zealand. Giving the ball to Bumrah in the last over even though he had been the bowler on target by the Pakistanis was probably the riskiest decision Dhoni took all night.
Dhoni came to the crease with India needing 35 from 36 and steadied the end of the innings to take India home. Dhoni did what he does best ended the game with a 6 and the winning single of consecutive balls.
Afridi needed to define what may have been his last innings against India, in India, or in a world cup. Coming first down Afridi tried to take the matters into his own hands as the Indian spin attack took its toll on the Pakistani lineup. Shahid was seen his usual best as he knocked around a few and completely mistimed the ball which took his wicket. Afridi took the onus of bowling in the 6th over as India were down 3 wickets for a mere 25 runs.
Afridi must also be appreciated for his nerve to stick to pace as his strike force to give fans back home more than just a reason to be jubilant. Lala, as he’s fondly called by his fellow Pathans, did fail to break through the Indian middle order or the curse of losing to India in World Cups. Afridi bowled 4 overs in a match where he was bound to be scrutinized irrespective of his efforts and nearly got the wicket of MS Dhoni. Afridi was drenched to the skin making changes to the field, bowling 4 overs, keeping up with the youngsters and getting the best out of his team.
As both captains, play possibly their last world cup, fans at home and away have been inspired by their vintage persistence which puts them a class apart from the new school “shock and awe” tactics. Leading from the front, both captains served their team and fans with a commitment to win till the end. Mahendra Singh Dhoni at age 34 and Shahid Afridi at age 36 seem to have mastered their roles as hard hitting batsmen and as captains of devastating units.
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