Former New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming today said Mahendra Singh Dhoni remains the best finisher of the limited overs game, hailing the World Cup- winning captain after he turned the clock back with a destructive knock. India’s most successful captain in both Tests and ODIs cracked a 34-ball 61 to steer Rising Pune Supergiant to a last-ball victory over Sunrisers Hyderabad in the IPL yesterday. “It was vintage, wasn’t it? It was a performance that was befitting of a man who has the reputation of being a great finisher,” Rising Pune Supergiant coach Fleming said. He added, “There has been a discussion around when was the last time he has played an innings like that. You got to remember playing an innings like that we had got a bit blasé about how special they were.”
Fleming was speaking on the eve of his team’s game against table-toppers Mumbai Indians at the Wankhede Stadium. “Yesterday he proved again that when he is in the mood and has got the sight or the feel for the bowling he is still the most destructive closer because of his composure and hitting skills.
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“And people were questioning his form but certainly from the finishing point of view I will reiterate we got a bit blasé because it was happening so often. “We benefitted from it at Chennai (Super Kings) a lot and people were yearning for a performance like that. And like all great players do, he delivered,” Fleming gushed about Dhoni’s knock.
Fleming conceded that Dhoni was a bit concerned about the lack of form and was keen to set it right. “Yes, he was determined. He has been training a lot. He has certainly hit a lot of balls and it was all building up to an innings of substance. He desperately wants us to do well this year.
“After last year, we all felt that we needed more contributions from everybody. He, in particular, was the one to put his hand up. So he has been wanting to win a game. “Smith as well has been wanting to win a game and our big players want to contribute and one of our biggest did that yesterday,” said Fleming.
The New Zealander spoke about Dhoni’s ability to ignore criticism and concentrate on the job at hand.
“He has never listened to or been affected by all the off-field talk. In some ways he isolates himself away from that which is a good thing especially in India with the pressure and the amount of talk there is. But still, the calmness he shows in such situations is one of his greatest assets. And yesterday, it was to the fore.
“We thought that it was probably late and we had not got too much of the total to leave us with a good chase in the end, but he proved it with the hitting and batting skills and the power that players have these days that no score is impossible and that puts so much pressure on the bowlers, and good bowlers too.”
According to Fleming, bowling wide yorkers did not work against one of the all-time greats of limited overs cricket. “I think it’s a trend for a lot of bowlers now, to get as wide as you can. Not just for Dhoni. It’s tough for hitters but if a bowler can bowl a good yorker wide, it does really limit the opportunity to score. I think Dhoni hit one over point, got another away through point as well. So he countered that quite well.
“Bhuvi (Bhuvneshwar Kumar) has done a great job this year, and last night was just a great batter in front of him,” he added.