Virat Kohli celebrates his century against Australia,
at the Chepauk, on Sunday. A Telegraph picture
Chennai: Mahendra Singh Dhoni didn’t wish to talk about cricket during the tea break. Unbeaten on 97, he did not want the enormity of the occasion to get to him.
Relaxed and unflustered, he urged teammates to talk about things not related to the game. “Just speak about something else was his request,” Virat Kohli revealed at the end of the day.
Such is Dhoni’s manner and approach towards his batting.
Test cricket hasn’t, in recent times, seen such brutal assault as was witnessed on Sunday. Not since the days of the Vivian Richards and the Adam Gilchrists. Virender Sehwag has shown glimpses of such destructive application but nothing could match Dhoni on this day. It was pure magic and it seemed he could have slayed this Australian attack even with a toothpick.
The statistics are revealing: An unbeaten 206 off 243 balls in 340 minutes of batting with 22 boundaries and five sixes. More importantly, the bulk of his runs came in partnership with the lower order. The unbroken ninth-wicket stand with Bhuvneshwar Kumar has so far produced 109 with Dhoni plundering 85 and the pacer contributing a mere 16.
Dhoni’s maiden double hundred has not only taken most of the sheen away from Virat’s classic 107 but has also placed India in a position of authority. They are now ahead by 135 runs and the enormity of this innings is sure to play on the Australians’ minds when they go about their task of saving this Test.
The hurry with which Dhoni went on accumulating runs in the final hour made it look like he would make Australia bat for a few overs on the third day itself.
Chennaiites were torn between attending chief minister J. Jayalalithaa’s birthday celebrations and being present at the Chepauk on the third day to witness Sachin Tendulkar’s impending 52nd Test century.
Once Nathan Lyon got the perfect off break to land in the rough and take the inside edge of Sachin’s bat to dislodge the leg stump, 52 minutes after the start, Dhoni was determined not to let the momentum stay with the visitors.
In a counterattack reminiscent of his first Test century in Faisalabad against Shoaib Akhtar and Co. the Team India captain tore into the Australian bowling destroying with utmost ease and proficiency whatever was on offer. Not once did he seem disturbed by the thought that he was dismissed on 99 in his last Test innings in Nagpur. There was never a moment of let-up in his offensive as the Nineties came and went.
Only the quick dismissals of Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin made Dhoni slightly cautious for a while. The only real scare came when Clarke dropped him, a difficult chance, off his own bowling on 121.
The most entertaining part of the day was the fifth wicket partnership of 128 in 26.1 overs. Dhoni’s positive and free-flowing display allowed Kohli to prosper and it looked like the pair were engaged in a T20 contest rather than a test of attrition and temperament.
The arrival of the second new ball after the 82nd over resulted in the most unabashed assault. Taking advantage of the harder ball, the boundaries flowed in a hurry. Three came in one Mitchell Starc over and was followed by a six over long off of Moises Henriques.
Nathan Lyon was the worst sufferer, the Indians never allowing the lone Australian spinner to settle into a line. If Lyon had to pay dearly for dismissing Sachin on 81, James Pattinson clearly remained their most impressive performer.
Pattinson and Peter Siddle were imposing in the first session forcing Sachin and Virat to restrict their flamboyant ways. Once Dhoni took guard, caution was thrown to the winds as he retaliated without battling an eyelid.
Virat gained in confidence as he despatched one Lyon long hop to the midwicket fence. Nothing shook his resolve or deflected his concentration as he clipped to the square leg fence to bring up his second consecutive Test century, and fourth overall.
This was also Virat’s second consecutive hundred versus Australia, following his maiden 116 in Adelaide. Once Virat failed to clear the mid on fielder, the 40,000-odd cherished their Chennai Super Kings’ captain’s exploits.
Ashwin and Murali Vijay may be the local heroes, but Dhoni will run close. His association with this city is not unknown and the deafening roar would surely have carried from the nearby Marina beach to the dust tormented roads in Ranchi once he pushed Lyon to short third man to complete his double century.
Perhaps this innings will also stop all the talk about a change in captaincy. But only if the bowlers can complement their captain’s efforts will the innings hold a special place in Dhoni’s heart.