On a morning where thousands of Indian’s snaked around the MA Chidambaram Stadium in hope of capturing a glimpse of their hero Sachin Tendulkar’s 52nd and possible final Test century, it was instead the country’s other icon MS Dhoni who stole the show with an unbeaten 206.
Many fans queued as early as 5am in a country where Test cricket is supposedly dead as the godly like figure that is Tendulkar started the day on unbeaten on 71.
If everything was to go according to plan then the full house would witness Tendulkar define both age and critics alike and race to his 52nd Test hundred, but the beauty of cricket is that it often doesn’t go seldom to plan.
When the Australians kept Tendulkar and his batting partner Virat Kohli quiet for the first hour of play, the match turned on its head. Having battled his way to a further ten runs, the ‘Little Master’ copped a sharp turning offie from Nathan Lyon, a ball that he could only edge onto his leg stump. The stadium went quiet and Tendulkar’s vigil was over. The match was evenly poised, but what would keep the passionate Indian fans engrossed for the remainder of the day’s play….Enter captain Dhoni.
Despite scoring 99 in his last Test innings, Dhoni was a man under pressure. The captain of the world’s most supported cricket team, the man who led his side to 4-0 defeats in recent overseas ventures of England and Australia and the man who led his side to their first home series defeat in eight years as recently as two months ago.
Many have called for Dhoni’s head as captain of the Test side in recent times. How can a man who’s regarded as one of the world’s best ODI captains and batsmen, not transform that into the Test arena?
India’s Test successes over the past two years have gone as far as home wins over the world’s seven and eighth best sides in the form of the West Indies and New Zealand. Much more is expected of a country with the cricketing history of India’s and today Dhoni’s broad bat showed his country that light is at the end of the dark tunnel that is Test cricket.
With the uneasy silence that the fall of Tendulkar’s wicket had brought around the ground, out stepped to the crease the day’s unexpected hero.
His first boundary didn’t arrive until his 22nd delivery, but by that stage Dhoni already looked assured at the crease and what was to follow would leave only one name on the lips of the devoted Tendulkar fans.
Three boundaries came off one Mitchell Starc over that took him past fifty and Moises Henriques was welcomed back into the attack with a sweetly driven six over extra cover, Dhoni had moved up a gear.
A missed run-out opportunity by Philip Hughes while on 88 wasn’t going to ruin Dhoni’s concentration, in fact it probably improved it as he took stock and buckled down, not reaching his hundred for a further nine overs.
After reaching his hundred, he wasn’t about to give it away. The overs slipped by and the occasional boundary came and went until Lyon was carted for two sixes in the 131 over of the innings, by this stage Dhoni had already passed 150 and was focusing on bringing up his maiden Test double.
The double was duly brought up with three overs of the day’s play to spare and Dhoni had lead his side to a lead of 135 and an un-losable position in the match.
The doubters were answered and the Tendulkar-rite’s were converted.