Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 13th 2013 Contents A53
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LONDON---The English Football Asso-
ciation will be able to punish players
retrospectively in the Premier League
next season if match officials are not
in position to properly assess incidents
of foul play.
The FA announced the amendment
to its rules yesterday.
Previously, a reviewing process could
only take place if none of the match offi-
cials had seen the "coming together" of
players or if an incident was deemed to
be "truly exceptional."
The rule change comes after Wigan
midfielder Callum McManaman com-
mitted a dangerous tackle on Newcastle
defender Massadio Haidara last season
but escaped a ban because at least one
match official had seen the incident.
FA to be able to punish players retrospectively
This was not cricket; this was poker.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni was too calm, too
cool, too sly. He bluffed and bluffed. He raised
the stakes even as wickets fell. He rode his
luck, survived a close run-out chance,
escaped two perilous mix-ups with Ishant
Sharma, and closed it out.
Dhoni wasn t even supposed to play this
match. And it was clear that he was struggling
with injury through his innings. He declined
some easy singles and didn t take some twos
he would have normally harried through. He
was up against the run rate. He was up against
a sharp Rangana Herath, Lasith Malinga and
Angelo Mathews. And he was up against pres-
sure. He overcame them all.
There is plenty to say about Sri Lanka s
batting, India s bowling, and India s top order.
There is a lot to write about Rohit Sharma s
innings. And there is much to talk about
Herath. But let them be for now.
Dhoni walked in at 139 for 4. He tapped
and blocked. Occasionally he nudged. It took
him 16 balls to get to 4. Meanwhile, his partners
came and left. Suresh Raina swished at an
away-goer; Ravindra Jadeja played back to one
that nipped back in; and R Ashwin was done
in by the arm ball. Bhuvneshwar Kumar made
nothing (though he did hang around for 15
crucial balls), and Vinay Kumar had a popcorn
burst in his head when, on 5, he tried to slog
a short ball out of the ground.
Twenty runs were needed off 22 balls. With
Ishant, the last man, sauntering in. Dhoni
played out two balls. Then took a single. And
Ishant blocked out the final delivery.
The next three overs tell you the story of
India s finest finisher. He waited. And he waited
This was classic Dhoni. He bides his time
until the game reaches a boiling point, plays
out the best bowlers, pushes the required rate
higher and higher, and then backs himself to
win the face-off. Javed Miandad did this often.
As did Michael Bevan. Dhoni has turned it
into an art form.
With 19 needed off 18, he faced Malinga.
He patted the first ball down the pitch and
defended the next one to the off side. The
third was slightly wide but he smashed it to
cover. He saw a chance to sneak a single but
turned it down. The fourth ball was fuller, on
off stump, and he wristed it to deep midwicket
for two. A typical Dhoni hustle, manoeuvering
the gaps with his tennis-ball technique.
The next ball was angled to third man. Again
he turned down the single (even with only
one ball left). The last ball was a bit wide. He
tapped it to point and hollered, "No." Ishant,
who was halfway down the pitch, was lucky
to survive a run out.
Seventeen were needed off 12.
Ishant stayed on strike for the whole over
from Mathews. He was nearly run out off the
first ball. He picked off two runs off the fourth.
And blocked out the next two.
Fifteen were required off the final over. And
Dhoni asked for a change of bat. "A 2kg bat,"
as he later revealed.
There is a reason India adores Dhoni. For
those who followed Indian cricket in the 80s
and 90s, he may even come across as a mes-
siah. Those were the days India choked and
crumbled. They withered at the first hint of
pressure. Their batsmen seemed to know
exactly when and how to combust. All would
be hunky dory until a slew of wickets wrecked
Match after match, big tournament after
big tournament, India pined for a batsman
like Miandad. Or Saleem Malik. Or Bevan. Or
Steve Waugh. Or any number of others who
could stay ice-cool in a chase. They craved
reassurance when the rate climbed. They
yearned for some batsman to steer them calm-
ly.Dhoni s calm can be intimidating. It s as if
he absorbs all the pressure as he works himself
into a zone. Those watching can feel this. They
understand that he gauges the pulse of the
game, that he reads the opposition and the
conditions. They are so used to his ways in
ODIs that they trust him to take the right
decisions at the right time.
Fifteen off the final over with a wicket in
hand---that s what schoolboy dreams are made
of, the kind of scenario that young kids imagine
while they stare into a life-size mirror. The
first ball of the final over was short and slightly
wide. Dhoni tried an almighty hoick and
missed. Many other batsmen would have
cussed aloud. Or admonished themselves.
Dhoni walked away towards square leg.
The second ball was full and wide. It stood
no chance against his pendulum swing. A
monstrous six. The third ball was on a length.
He carved it behind point. Five needed off
three. The fourth ball was also on a length.
Another meaty swing. Another six. Match
over. Tournament won. Let s all go home.
The Sri Lankans were stunned by the assault.
Dhoni s team-mates looked shocked too. The
commentators were delirious. And those at
the ground went bananas. But when all these
people sit back and quietly consider the final
stages of the match, they will be overcome
by a sense of inevitability.
Dhoni is no doubt a badass finisher. He is
one of India s finest ODI batsmen. And he is
their most decorated captain. But his true con-
tribution goes far deeper. He has managed to
turn a fan base inured to close defeats and pan-
icky collapses into a set that refuses to believe
that a game is lost as long as he stays in.
There was a time when Indian fans turned
off the TV when Tendulkar got out (and Dhoni
too has admitted to having done the same
when he watched the 2003 World Cup final).
But the thinking these days seems to have
been turned on its head, almost to a point
where fans tune into a game when their captain
walks in. (ESPNcricinfo)
When the going gets tough...
There's always Dhoni
India's batsman Mahendra Singh Dhoni watches the winning hit clear the rope against Sri
Lanka in the tri-series final at the Queen's Park Oval in Port-of-Spain on Thursday. India won by
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