IPL 2023 final: Dhoni’s captaincy, 'lenient' umpires in focus as CSK face GT
MS Dhoni is known for his shrewd captaincy. Yet again, on Sunday evening (May 28), his leadership skills will be in focus as he attempts to guide Chennai Super Kings (CSK) to IPL 2023 title when they face Gujarat Titans (GT) at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad.
During the team’s campaign in IPL 2023, Dhoni has reasoned that the side’s success so far has been the players’ attitude of “team first”. And, who better to know how to give his all for the yellow brigade other than Dhoni himself?
Dhoni is a team man to the core. And when it comes to CSK, he heart beats for the Chennai franchise. There have been numerous instances when he “crossed the line” to save his team, displaying a not-so-cool demeanour.
Dhoni’s time-wasting tactics
In Qualifier 1, when CSK was playing GT at home – Chennai’s MA Chidambaram Stadium, Dhoni “wasted” time just to make sure his main bowler could bowl an over just after returning from the dugout.
In that contest, the wily Dhoni not only guided CSK to yet another IPL final but his clever act of gamesmanship by eating valuable minutes allowed his lethal weapon Matheesha Pathirana to bowl the 16th over against GT.
The incident took place when CSK’s Sri Lankan paceman Pathirana, who returned 4-0-37-2 while accounting for the dangerous Vijay Shankar and Mohammed Shami, was not allowed to bowl his second spell at the death.
He had left the field in the second half of the GT’s chase for the treatment of an undisclosed niggle. Pathirana had bowled his first, and overall 12th over, in the innings before leaving the field.
What do rules say?
As per the IPL playing conditions, any player who leaves the field for more than eight minutes, must be on the field for a similar amount of time after returning, post which he is allowed to bowl.
But as Pathirana returned, he was asked to bowl the 16th over with GT needing another 71 to win from 30 balls, having crawled to 102 for six.
According to a report in ESPNcricinfo, Dhoni noticed umpire Anil Chaudhary having a conversation with Pathirana before the over, and the CSK captain checked with Chris Gaffaney, positioned at square leg, as to what the discussion was about.
The TV commentary, meanwhile, informed that the Sri Lankan was out for nine minutes and the discussion on the field pertained to whether Pathirana could bowl or not.
The report also stated that Dhoni was informed by match officials that Pathirana would have to wait for some more time before he could bowl.
On-field umpires at fault
The CSK captain acknowledged that he understood, but added that he had no option but to give the ball to Pathirana. Dhoni was also reminded that CSK could face financial penalty for slow over-rate and in-match penalty of being allowed only four men outside the circle, if the last over does not start in stipulated time.
In all these discussions, the four minutes elapsed and Pathirana was allowed to bowl with permissible time of eight minutes being already over. While Pathirana didn’t get a wicket in that over, he did get a wicket in his very next over, Shankar to tilt the match in CSK’s favour.
This incident proved how shrewd Dhoni was but also exposed the on-field umpires. The match officials should not have allowed Dhoni to eat up time and should have told him to get on with the game by bowling a different bowler. But the umpires seemed like they were “overawed” by Dhoni and kept on chatting with the skipper.
Here, questions need to be asked whether the same umpires would have allowed this if it was any other captain other than Dhoni.
Former umpire slams Dhoni
Former ICC elite panel umpire Daryl Harper of Australia slammed Dhoni for not respecting the spirit of the game and doing anything to win a game.
“Dhoni wasted time to allow his preferred bowling option to deliver the vital 16th over. That’s the only conclusion that I can draw from the disappointing spectacle,” Harper told Mid-Day.
“The issue for me is the lack of respect shown for the spirit of cricket and for the directions of the umpires. There were other (bowling) options for the captain, but they were ignored. Maybe, some people are bigger than the law or in this case, the spirit of cricket. It’s always disappointing to see the lengths that some people will go to in order to win,” he added.
When Dhoni walked onto the field
When it comes to superstars even some umpires look lenient. Four years back too, Dhoni was let off with just fine when he should have faced a ban for entering the ground, questioning an umpire’s decision.
Back then, in IPL 2019, Dhoni uncharacteristically lost his composure and rushed out of the dugout to challenge umpire Ulhas Gandhe following his no-ball during CSK versus Rajasthan Royals (RR) game in Jaipur.
It was the final over of the game with CSK needing 18 off it. Ben Stokes bowled a full toss and umpire Gandhe called it a no-ball before backtracking on his decision. That led to an angry Dhoni walking on to the field of play and he was duly fined 50 per cent of his match fee for the outburst.
Recalling the incident, umpire Gandhe did not have much to say. “All I can say is that due process was followed,” he told PTI, a year later.
Former England captain Michael Vaughan, and ex-Australian cricketers Mark Waugh, Michael Slater and Shaun Tait criticised the CSK skipper for his conduct.
Given the magnitude of Sunday’s game, what will Dhoni do if he faces similar situations?
(With agency inputs)