Calcutta: Will Mahendra Singh Dhoni be remembered for not getting one run more or for promoting himself, ahead of debutant Ravindra Jadeja, and putting together such a character-flavoured 99 which ended in a run out?
The India captain’s detractors could focus on his failing to get a hundred (Dhoni already has five in Test cricket), but the Jamtha innings is unlikely to be forgotten by those who watched it, be it in person or via the telecast.
“Dhoni’s finest in Tests, a terrific innings,” is how his first India captain, Sourav Ganguly, hailed the knock.
Sourav has consistently maintained that Dhoni needs to do more in cricket’s oldest format.
He wasn’t disappointed on Saturday.
Taken apart by the media, attacked by ex-cricketers and having his position undermined by former selector Mohinder Amarnath, Dhoni would have begun the ongoing Test with considerable traffic in his head.
Far from an ideal build-up to the “most important” Test of his four-year innings as the India captain across formats.
Yet, the best way for any sportsman to respond is to deliver out on the park or the pool or in the ring or... Dhoni has done that.
It’s another matter that India may still not win the Test and square the four-match series.
As public memory is rather short, in India particularly, most could have forgotten that Dhoni promoted himself in the 2011 World Cup final too. The suggestion came from the then coach Gary Kirsten, but it’s Dhoni who accepted the challenge and came ahead of Yuvraj Singh.
What happened thereafter, at the Wankhede, needn’t be repeated.
It’s interesting that Dhoni himself revealed that the idea had come from Kirsten. He didn’t take credit for that Cup-winning move.
But that’s the way he is.
Another feature of Dhoni the person and cricketer is not ducking challenges.
One straightaway recalls the gutsy manner he stood up to Shoaib Akhtar in fading light at the Iqbal Stadium in Faisalabad, during the January 2006 Test.
The Faisalabad wicket is normally a feather-bed, but Shoaib had worked up a tidy pace and rattled some of the established batsmen.
Later, in a tone of admiration, Shoaib told The Telegraph: “Dhoni naya banda hai, but uske paas himmat hai... In my view, the only one with b****!”
Then in his first season as a Test cricketer, Dhoni top-scored with 148 in innings No.1 at the Iqbal Stadium, his maiden hundred.
Amarnath has his take (and he’s entitled to hop from one TV studio to the next) on the captaincy issue, but Dhoni’s bit about not deserting the ship has to be respected.
After the loss at the Eden, he’d said: “As a leader, this (situation) is a challenge thrown at me... It’s always good to lead a side when everybody is doing well. That’s when you don’t need a leader...
“Leading is tough when the team is not doing well... The easiest thing for me to say right now is I quit the captaincy. But that’s like running away from responsibility...”
Amarnath tore into Dhoni not much later, but ridiculing him for the sake of wah-wahs isn’t cricket.