Former India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni has once again proven that for him, age is just a number. The 35-year-old, who made his ODI debut in 2004, remains a boss behind the wickets and a strongman with the bat. On Friday, the stage was once again set for him. Considered one of the best finishers in modern-day cricket, Dhoni fired all cylinders to dig India out of trouble against the West Indies, eventually setting up the visitors' 93-run win in Antigua. (Scorecard)
India overcame a bad start to post 251/4 on a slowish surface, largely due to the efforts of Dhoni (78*), Kedar Jadhav (40*) and Ajinkya Rahane (72). The Indian bowlers then proved too good for the inexperienced West Indies' batting line-up, dismissing the hosts for 158 in 38.1 overs. The commanding win enabled India to gain an unbeaten 2-0 lead in the five-match series.
The Indian batsmen found the going tough before Rahane and Dhoni took the team past the 250-run mark. Jadhav too played his part well while batting alongside Dhoni as India amassed 100 off the last 60 balls. India were 100/3 in the 27th over after being put in to bat by West Indies captain Jason Holder on a pitch where there was moisture due to overnight rain. The wicket offered spongy bounce early on and its slowness made batting difficult. The heavy rain on Thursday night also made the outfield slow.
However, Dhoni took the innings forward after Rahane perished to a spectacular running catch from Bishoo in the deep, making it 170/4 in 42.2 overs. The onus was on Dhoni to provide the final flourish and he did that in his trademark style. He completed his 63rd ODI half century with a single. The former India captain had hit only three fours until then but need of the hour was the big hits from his bat. He finally cut loose in the 47th over, smashing Holder for consecutive sixes, one over the bowler's head and the other over square leg after picking it from outside off. Jadhav too supported him well in the death overs, smashing four boundaries and a six.
Dhoni also surpassed Australia's Adam Gilchrist to become the second highest run-scorer by a wicketkeeper in ODIs. Apart from this, he is now fifth on the list of most number of sixes hit by a player in the 50-over format. Dhoni, who now has 9442 runs from 294 matches, overtook Gilchrist who amassed 9410 runs from 282 matches. Sri Lanka's Kumar Sangakkara is on top of the list with 13341 runs from 360 matches.
When Dhoni was asked whether he was getting better with age, he said: "It is like wine".
"I think we are not getting too much of an opportunity because the top-order has been batting really well in the last 1 and a half years. It feels good to go out there and score some runs. There was variable bounce and pace on the wicket. It was important to have a partnership at that time. Personally, I had 250 in the mind. Kedar batted really well with me. We knew if we had wickets in hand we can get there. It was something that the bowlers could have defended and am glad that they did," Dhoni, who was adjudged the Man of the Match, said after the match.