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Dhoni fire lights up India

Jaipur, Oct. 31: The frenzied chants of “Dhoni, Dhoni” as Mahendra Singh emerged from the pavilion to board the Team India bus after a one-day epic would have carried to Ranchi and beyond in Jharkhand. Test specialist Dinesh Karthick must be getting edgy.

For a while Saeed Anwar’s world record of 194 was under threat, not to speak of the highest by an Indian (Sachin Tendulkar’s unbeaten 186), but when Dhoni closed out the third ODI against Sri Lanka with another six this afternoon, he’d reached 183.

That’s the most by a wicketkeeper in ODIs and the sixth highest by anybody. Despite less than a year’s exposure to international cricket, Man-of-the-Match Dhoni required a mere 145 deliveries (16x4, 10x6) and that tells its story.

Terrific for Indian fans, many of whom had given up after the Lankans posted 298 in the allotted 50 overs, but worse than a nightmare for Maravan Atapattu. “We thought we had a good chance, but Dhoni whacked a six whenever he wanted to,” rued the Lankan captain.

Sachin had gone as early as the fifth delivery and, for the first time in the seven-match series, the pressure was on India. Dhoni, however, did even better than his blistering 148 in Visakhapatnam (versus Pakistan) earlier this year. It took India to 303 for four, in the 46th over, with the six-wicket win ensuring a 3-0 scoreline.

Despite the achievement, which took him past idol Adam Gilchrist, Dhoni declined to dedicate it to anybody. “I had a job to do and did it to the best of my ability,” he told The Telegraph.

For many, Dhoni’s the new idol. Only Sanath Jayasuriya and Shahid Afridi (11 each) have hit more sixes in an innings. Dhoni began with one over cover off Chaminda Vaas and finished with a pull off T.M. Dilshan.

“It has been a privilege watching an innings like Dhoni’s. I’ve seen some great one-day knocks ' from Sachin, Sourav Ganguly and Virender Sehwag, but nobody played better in a big chase,” lauded captain Rahul Dravid, whose every move is turning to gold.

He sent Irfan Pathan at No.3 in Nagpur and the speedster responded with 83. Jai Prakash Yadav didn’t do much in the same position in Mohali, but the team didn’t suffer. At the Sawai Man Singh Stadium, it was another No.3 who ushered in the “choti Diwali”.

Not prone to talking big, Dhoni said: “I wasn’t looking at becoming the first to score a double century, I just wanted to remain till the winning runs. Of course, when I was in the 160s, I was keen to overtake Gilchrist’s 172. I got cramps because I’d kept for 50 overs and came out to bat almost straightaway.”

Raving about Dhoni, Dravid said the character shown by him in staying on the park despite the cramps was “expected” of everybody. He added: “It’s nice to have options and be flexible, but what’s more important is that we’ve got people who can be flexible.”

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