Snapshots: The 100m sprint between Dhoni and Pandya

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Dhoni > Pandya

For all those living under a rock and questioning just how fit MS Dhoni is, there was a telling proof on Wednesday morning in Mohali. Just ahead of the second ODI against Sri Lanka, Hardik Pandya spiced up a routinely mundane warm-up session of the Indian team by challenging his former skipper to a 100m sprint. As the 36-year-old zoomed past Pandya, unarguably one of the most agile cricketers of this generation, to win the contest, the applause was subdued for there weren’t many in the audience given the cold, breezy start to the morning. The video of it, though, went viral on social media within minutes. All those critics can go take a hike!

Creating chances

With Dhawan in his element, and a defensive field setting not helping, the Sri Lankans were getting desperate for an opening. On top of which, Rohit had just come down the track to Akila Dananjaya off the first ball of the over to fetch a boundary for himself. The mystery spinner though didn’t shy away from throwing himself around in order to put some pressure back on the Indian openers. When Rohit drove the following ball back towards the right of the spinner, Dhanajaya put in a full-length dive to cut short what seemed like definite runs. However, seeing that Rohit had strayed way out of his crease looking for a single, the Sri Lankan rocketed a throw at the keeper’s end. Even a direct hit probably wouldn’t have beaten Rohit’s desperate dive but the commendable effort did earn him a belated applause.

Dhoni also had an on-field visitor from the crowd today. © AFP

When Iyer stole Rohit’s thunder

Rohit had been wandering in his 90s for about four overs now; within striking distance of a hundred. After overcoming a cautious start, the Indian skipper didn’t want to throw it all away. On 99, when Rohit actually managed to find the gap, the chants had begun even before he kicked off his jog for the single. No fancy celebrations, just a low-key fist pump before the raise of a bat. Though what won an impatient audience’s heart were two beautifully struck sixes off Shreyas Iyer’s bat on either side of the captain’s century. After a poor outing in Dharamsala, Shreyas Iyer decided to have some fun when Dhawan had set him a platform, and the crowd got right behind him. With plenty of wickets in hands, they wanted fireworks. It really didn’t matter who provided it.

Rohit joins the party

For the first half of his carnage in Mohali, Rohit played an anchor to first Dhawan and then Iyer. His hundred came only in the 40th over of the Indian innings. But the Indian captain was unstoppable once he’d decided it was time to switch gears. The Sri Lankans watched in horror, the shoulders dropped faster than feared, as Rohit clobbered balls into the stands at will. In the 44th over, off Suranga Lakmal, Rohit had five balls at his disposal. He sent four of them sailing over the ropes already and kicked himself hard for failing to dish out a similar treatment to the fifth – a ‘hit me’ full toss. But the fun had only just started. He’d scored one subdued hundred already; the second was going to be in his typical style.

He came, he smiled, he conquered

A dejected Shreyas Iyer walking back after narrowly missing what would have been his maiden ODI hundred in just his second game – one would be forgiven to believe that the near-capacity crowd at the IS Bindra Stadium was giving him a standing-ovation. Instead, it was a usual, grand reception for their beloved Dhoni. But just after the former captain warmed up by dispatching a full-toss for his first six, Thisara Perera sent him on his way back by trapping him in front of the stumps. Dhoni, who had taken off for a single, did a U-turn mid-pitch and walked off with a wide grin on his face – all flashed over the two big screens on the ground and enough for the crowd to break into a riotous cheer.

Giving it his all

On the eve of the game, Washington Sundar walked in for his first press conference still unsure if a late call-up to the team would actually get him a debut game. The confident 18-year-old, though, spoke about being mentally prepared to embrace the opportunity at whatever point it comes during the course of the series. In less than 24 hours from there, he had his maiden India cap handed to him by coach Ravi Shastri. While he didn’t get to bat – watching skipper Rohit’s record-shattering double from the pavilion – he was the first to take field as soon as India’s innings ended. Occupying the pitch beside the one used in this match, the debutant practiced his art of off-spin for nearly as long as the break lasted. He’d committed a full quota of 10 overs if the team demanded so, the warm-up for which started early.

For the love of MS Dhoni

There is a three-feet wide, hollow drain on the periphery of the field of play, acting as a separator between the seating galleries and the ground, that’s nearly impossible to cross without attracting attention. Not to forget the additional police force deployed to prevent any untoward incident. And yet, an ardent fan breached all barriers and barged onto the field of play to shake hands with – you guessed it – Dhoni. Running in with a banner in hand, the intruder only picked up more speed when a security official pursued. He fell at Dhoni’s feet, probably even exchanging a few words, before being escorted off the field. It took less than a fraction of a second for the ‘Dhoooooni, Dhoni’ chants to reverberate all around the ground.

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