TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
REMEMBER when MS Dhoni wore a mullet? What about his shaved chrome dome? And how about that Mohican he once sported? Admittedly, not to mention mercifully, all were last seen many matches ago.
But they are also all part of the history of the boy who grew up to write his own annual, in which the latest chapter described him winning the second one-day international against SA in Indore on Wednesday – a game India should never have claimed.
As AB de Villiers said afterwards, “They played some decent cricket but we know we should have won that game.”
That SA did not, and that someone as experienced and respected as Dhoni did to level the series at 1-1, will be an alarm bell for SA going into the third match in Rajkot on Sunday.
“The ball is in our court, we’ve got to make a play,” De Villiers said. “It’s very important for us as a team to move on and put all our focus on the next ODI. If we can breakthrough there, we’ve got two more left to win the series. It’s a massive game for us in Rajkot.”
Indeed. The South Africans know Dhoni’s 92 not out on Wednesday was no fluke. How to stop it happening again is their challenge.
Dhoni’s mullet was in full, fringed flop when Dhoni arrived in the wider world’s consciousness in 2004.
When India won the 2011 World Cup – thanks in part to the six heard round the world that Dhoni hit to clinch the final against Sri Lanka – he emerged the next morning with a freshly balded pate that glistened almost as brightly as the trophy he was holding. He had shaved his head, he said, to please the gods.
Two years later, after Dhoni hammered 63 off 19 balls to propel Chennai Super Kings to victory over Sunrisers Hyderabad, he pulled off his helmet to reveal his inner Robert De Niro, circa Taxi Driver. That, thankfully, really was the last of the Mohicans.
Dhoni is now 34 and his once bright eyes of wonder have yellowed with experience. He no longer plays test cricket but he has 733 matches of all descriptions, all but 46 them as the designated wicketkeeper, to his credit dating back to an under-19 three-day game for Bihar against Bengal in Jamshedpur in October 1998.
The signs that the start of a great career were upon us were not good: the first day was washed out. But the name of the venue should have told us something special was up – the match was played at the Tata Engineering and Locomotive Company Club Ground.
Dhoni scored 33 off exactly twice as many deliveries in his only innings. Only seven of those runs were not drilled as fours or sixes.
Almost 17 years on, Dhoni’s now cuts his hair like an accountant but he still bats like a rock star. SA will hope like hell that he gets those two realities mixed up on Sunday.