India v/s South Africa 5th ODI: Can the Men in Blue seal the deal?

It’s been a typical Bollywood potboiler. Fortunes have ebbed and flowed, twists and turns have been followed by heartbreak and jubilation. Locked at 2-2 in the series, it’s now time for the climax at the Wankhede Stadium here on Sunday.

Indian team

And one man who will play the protagonist in this final chapter of the ODI series between India and South Africa is MS Dhoni. Captain Cool, as he is known, has faced quite a bit of heat during times in this series. Questions have been raised about his finishing skills with the bat, about his captaincy, about his muddled mind. However, he would know well that a victory on Sunday would give him the much-needed breathing space. A loss, on the other hand, would only add fuel to the fire.

It was thus no surprise to see Dhoni go about his training with a sense of urgency on Saturday. He was the first to walk up to the nets and place his kit. He was the first to go and inspect the deck. He was the first to grab a ball and roll his arm over to Suresh Raina.

Dhoni was having a good, hard look at his top-order batsmen having a hit. Once his turn came, he walked in with two bats, placing one right behind the middle stump. The first two balls were defended solidly. The third, sent down by Stuart Binny, was top-edged straight to an imaginary mid-wicket fielder. He was beaten in the fourth by a net bowler. It took the skipper a good 20-25 balls to let the ball greet the middle of the bat. That pretty much reflected Dhoni’s story this series: he was in there, trying hard to be like his former self, but it simply eluded him.

Perhaps he could take comfort from where he was.

It was on this very ground that he took India home in the 2011 World Cup final against Sri Lanka with a-picture-is-worth-a-thousand-words six. It was on this very ground that he scripted a perfect climax. It’s now time for him to lead his bunch of boys to another one against a South African team that will simply refuse to throw in the towel.

Dhoni can also take confidence from the fact that things looked like falling in place after the win in Chennai. Rohit Sharma will be playing for the first time in Mumbai in an ODI, and a humongous knock from him in front of his home crowd can never be ruled out. Virat Kohli is back to his hundred-scoring ways. Ajinkya Rahane and Raina got good runs. The spinners played their role to perfection.

“You want to be performing in big games,” Kohli said at the pre-match press conference on Saturday. “That feeling you get after winning an important game and having an important contribution, it’s very hard to replicate in any aspect of life as a sportsman. It’s like a craving.”

Who wants it?


The curious case of Morkel
Morne Morkel was one of the first bowlers to walk to the nets during South Africa’s training session on Saturday morning. The lanky pacer, who sat out of the fourth ODI in Chennai due to a sore leg, looked hungry to get back to business. He marked his run up, and bowled to Hashim Amla under the watchful eyes of bowling coach Charl Langeveldt. Why, he even generated his usual, awkward steep bounce. But a few deliveries later, he walked off. Later, South African vice-captain Hashim Amla effectively ruled him out of the final ODI. “I don’t think Morne is fit enough to play.

He bowled a bit in the nets, and we will take a final call tomorrow (Sunday), but I don’t think he will be fit.” Shikhar Dhawan and Suresh Raina can heave a sigh of relief.

An eye on the Springboks
The Proteas seem to have one eye in England sitting in Mumbai. The entire team made plans to watch the Rugby World Cup semifinal between South Africa and New Zealand live on television on Saturday night back in their hotel. “Yes, guys make great efforts to try and get hold of the game on TV. It’s a big moment for South Africa, and we have a lot of guys in the team who are ruby fans as well. So it’s really exciting, and certainly a lot of guys will be following it very, very keenly on TV,” South African opener Hashim Amla said. Wonder if the Springboks will reciprocate the support, and make time to watch Sunday’s series-decider.

Posted by on October 25, 2015. Filed under Sports World. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.