Delayed Live: India won the T20 World Cup because of Mahendra Singh Dhoni

Under M.S. Dhoni’s captaincy, India won the inaugural edition of the ICC T20 World Cup in 2007. Dhoni announced his retirement from T20 and one-day international cricket in 2020.
Under M.S. Dhoni’s captaincy, India won the inaugural edition of the ICC T20 World Cup in 2007. Dhoni announced his retirement from T20 and one-day international cricket in 2020.

Summary

  • The only truth among all the explanations on offer is that India won the T20 World Cup because of Dhoni. Why? Because we won by seven runs.

In the city I grew up in, TV was first broadcast on 2 October 1984. We got our first TV set two months later, on 25 December. It was a black-and-white Uptron. And I have been watching live cricket since then. In the four decades that have followed, I have spent a lot of time watching live cricket broadcasts in India, largely following the matches of the Indian men’s cricket team.

In fact, I am even watching the India versus Zimbabwe five-match T-20 series that is currently on. Well, when you have already seen the 12 seasons of The Big Bang Theory multiple times, even matches against Zimbabwe make for a nice change.

I had watched cricket when the government-run Doordarshan was the only TV channel in India. It interrupted live cricket broadcasts for regular programming—everything from the daily news to even Krishi Darshan was broadcast at the cost of a cricket match. (Okay, please don’t fact-check me on this, nearly 40 years have gone by, and my memory is fuzzy.)

The young me couldn’t figure out who those people were who wanted to watchKrishi Darshan and not cricket (the middle-aged me can’t figure out who those people are who don’t want to watch the Indian cricket team playing but are happy watching Mankhurd UnitedplayAndheri Villa. Dear reader, if you haven’t got this joke, please write to me and I shall explain.)

I remember this one occasion clearly: India was playing Australia in Australia, on 26 January, India’s Republic Day. Of course, the Republic Day Parade took precedence over the cricket match. This is where it gets interesting. Doordarshan decided to broadcast the entire match after the Parade ended and called it “delayed live", instead of just a recording. To this day, ‘delayed live’ remains my favourite term used by the Indian bureaucracy— ‘load-shedding’ comes second.

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In all these years of watching cricket, I have seen a lot of games where the match has gone up and down and topsy-turvy. But I have never seen a game like the one on 29 June—30 runs required off 30 balls and six wickets in hand. And Heinrich Klaasen going like the whole town was about to be bombed and he had to catch the last plane out.

Who doesn’t win from such a situation like this in this day and age? And in an era where teams have even scored 100 runs off 30 balls, it was the end for the Indian cricket team. We were done and dusted. Over and out. Khallas. Finish. Khatam. Tak taka tak.

India would have lost yet another World Cup final in a matter of seven months and a few days. But that didn’t happen. We won. Hum jeet gaye. By seven runs. And then, the analyses began. As one of my favourite phrases goes: Everything is obvious once you know the answer.

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So why did we win? We won because Virat Kohli did not get out early and held the inning together by scoring 76 off 59 balls, giving the team some runs on the board that they could possibly defend.

Oh, but Virat batted very slowly. In this day and age, who scores 76 off 59 at a strike rate of less than 130 per 100 balls? India won the game because Jasprit Bumrah, Arshdeep Singh, and Hardik Pandya bowled the way they did in the last five overs. Here’s how it went.

South Africa needed 30 runs in 30 balls when Bumrah came on to bowl. He gave just four runs off six balls, leaving South Africa to get 26 from 24 balls. Then Rishab Pant had a little bit of a niggle. The game was briefly interrupted, giving India a breather and breaking South Africa’s focus—or so said the commentators who have been commentating as long as I have been watching cricket, leaving me no other option but to watch the rest of the game on mute. I would love it if TV channels broadcast cricket with nothing but the stadium noise. Some commentators have been going on for so long that one can even predict what they will say next.

Pandya came on to bowl the next over and Klaasen played a loose shot to a slower ball outside the off stump and nicked it to the wicket-keeper. And India got a look-in. Bumrah came on to bowl the next over. Got a wicket and gave away just two runs. Arshdeep bowled the 19th over and gave away just four runs. So there was one over left and South Africa, from needing just 30 runs off 30 balls, now needed 16 off six.

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Pandya came in to bowl the last over. The first ball was a wide full toss outside the off-stump and David ‘Killer’ Miller hit it with all his power. It looked like the ball would sail outside the boundary line, leaving South Africa needing 10 runs off five balls.

But in a twist of fate, Suryakant Yadav, aka Sky, who up until then was being trolled massively on social media for failing to score in big matches, jumped and caught the ball outside the boundary line—then threw it up in the air before his feet touched the ground outside the boundary—and then jumped inside the boundary line—and then caught the ball again. India dismissed Killer Miller.

So it was the bowlers and Sky who won India the match. QED.

But, but, but… If Virat hadn’t scored the runs…

But he was too slow…And because of his slow batting Hardik and Jadeja barely got any time to bat, and they could have scored at a faster pace than Kohli.

Oh, but Virat was slow because he was taking singles and encouraging the batters at the other end to score big. Axar Patel scored 47 off 31 balls, hitting four sixes, until he managed to get himself run out. Shivam Dube scored 27 off 16 balls.

These batters played high-risk cricket and scored fast because they knew that Virat was at the other end, and if they got out trying to score quickly he would handle the situation. As a Pakistani cricket analyst put it: “Wo unhe khila raha tha (He was getting them to bat.)"

But whose decision was it to send Axar higher up in the batting order? Captain Rohit Sharma’s. Or coach Rahul Dravid’s. Or possibly both the coach and the captain?

And who held Bumrah back for two overs towards the end, instead of bowling him earlier, given that South Africa was bossing the game. Again, Rohit. And if Rohit hadn’t scored as quickly as he did against Australia and England, India wouldn’t have been in the finals and gotten the momentum that they had got going.

Yes, yes, yes… But he did end up giving Axar one over too many to bowl. He shouldn’t have bowled a spinner in the 15th over, especially when he knew that Klaasen—the best hitter of spin in the ODI game—was batting at one end.

Before the over started, South Africa needed 54 runs off 36 balls—not very difficult to get, but something that still gave India a fighting chance given that Bumrah had two overs left. Klaasen scored 22 runs in the over and Axar bowled two wides, leaving South Africa to get 30 off 30 balls at the end of the over. The game was done and dusted. Rohit could have easily bowled Pandya given that the allrounder ended up bowling only three overs in the match and could have easily bowled a fourth.

Yes, yes, yes… But all this happened quite late in the game. India won the game because both Quinton de Kock and Tristan Stubbs threw away their wickets by playing loose shots.

And so the story goes.

These and other arguments trying to explain India’s victory have been offered,stillleaving us with this question: why and how did India manage to win from such a hopeless situation? What’s the clear-cut explanation? Something that can easily be shared over WhatsApp. Something that can make for a nice and easy conversation with friends while taking that early morning walk. Or something that can be a nice conversation starter with colleagues in the office. Or even over a Bumble date.

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In sports, like in life, the sum of the parts can be more than the whole. Or as the cricket writer Sidharth Monga explained it brilliantlyin his piece on Cricinfo: “Sometimes sports can be messy and without any explanation."

Or with due apologies to Bruce Springsteen, the man they call the Boss, when it comes topost facto explanations, we are alldancing in the dark, though pretending otherwise. Of course, the Boss had Courtney Cox with him while he was dancing in the dark; we just have our explanations. And we love them. We think we are right. We think others are thinking in the same way as we are.

As Thomas Gilovich and Lee Ross write in The Wisest One in the Room—How You Can Benefit from Social Psychology’s Most Powerful Insights: “People tend to think that their beliefs, opinions, and actions enjoy greater consensus than is really the case. More precisely, people who have a given opinion or preference tend to think that it is more common than do those with the opposite opinion or preference."

So, the Kohli fans think India won because he batted like he did. The Bumrah fans think India won because he bowled well. The Rohit fans think India won because he captained and batted the way he did. The Sky fans think India won because he caught the sensational and once-in-a-lifetime catch. The Hardik fans think India couldn’t have won if he hadn’t dismissed Klaasen.

As Gilovich and Ross write: “People have the conviction that they see things as they are—that their beliefs, preferences, and responses follow from an essentially unmediated perception of objects, events, and issues—it follows that other rational, reasonable people should reach the same conclusions."

Indeed, very few fans tend to remember that at the end of the day cricket is a team game. It takes 11 men to win a cricket match on most days, episodic brilliant performances notwithstanding.

Of course, this does not mean there are no certainties. The joke going around is that Akshay Kumar is looking to play Rahul Dravid if a biopic on this win ever gets made.

And that leaves us with the fans of Mahendra Singh Dhoni. People like me. After all, he is the most famous man of the city that I come from. Whom else can I support? Well, the only truth among all the explanations on offer is that India actually won because of Dhoni. Why? Because we won by seven runs. Need I say more?

Dear reader, you have been click-baited. Okay, bye!

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