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Dhoni did not show ‘intent’ in 2019 World Cup clash- Is Ben Stokes right?

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Intent – the determination to achieve an objective. Over the last couple of days, this word has been searched frequently in google.

The reason – Ben Stokes, MS Dhoni, and the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup. Stokes, who was the major factor in England winning the ICC Cricket World Cup for the first time, has claimed in his book ‘On Fire’ that Dhoni did not show intent in their clash at Birmingham.

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This has drawn some controversies, with several West Indian players like Chris Gayle, Andre Russell and Jason Holder telling former Pakistan spinner Mushtaq Ahmed they felt India did not want Pakistan to qualify for the knockouts and that they deliberately lost the match.

This revelation has dominated Pakistan airwaves and print editions for the last couple of days. Former Pakistan player Sikander Bhakt said India had lost intentionally to keep Pakistan out.

Stokes, in retaliation, has said he never mentioned in his book that India lost deliberately. Michael Holding, the former West Indies pacer and commentator, supported Dhoni when he said that it was not a team tactic to lose.

This situation has caused unnecessary friction. However, when it comes to Stokes and his ‘On Fire’ book, there is a problem. In the 2019 Ashes contest, his allegations on Warner prompted Australia to call it a ‘boosting book sales’ gimmick. It must be ascertained that whether Stokes was right in this claim that Dhoni did not show intent.

Slow start hurts India

The England vs India match in Birmingham was a do-or-die encounter for England. They had not won a World Cup match against India in 27 years and they were staring at an early exit. The match was already in focus for India’s Orange jersey which caused an uproar.

Jonny Bairstow and Jason Roy started aggressively for England, with Bairstow smashing a 100. The 160-run opening stand, in which England tackled the spinners brilliantly, laid the foundation for Stokes to blast 79 off 54 balls. Mohammed Shami took five wickets as England reached 337/7.

England vs India 2019
England players celebrate during India vs England in ICC Cricket World Cup 2019. (Credits: Twitter)

In chasing a big target, a fast start is required. A required rate of close to seven needs a score in the range of 60-70 in the first 10 overs. Unfortunately, that did not happen for India. Chris Woakes bowled three consecutive maidens. In addition, he got swing and bowled in the perfect areas.

KL Rahul departed for 0 and the likes of Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli were undone by a mixture of accuracy and hostility from Jofra Archer and Woakes. 28/1 in 10 overs in pursuit of 338. When one tries to analyse the match, the slow start in the powerplay was the big factor in the loss.

Dhoni bogged down

Rohit and Kohli stitched a 138-run stand, with Kohli hitting another fifty. Rohit smashed a century but he could not continue to make a big score. England’s pacers, in particular, Liam Plunkett, were employing the slow bouncer brilliantly. His variations in length and pace saw him taking three wickets in the middle overs.

Dhoni India vs England
Stokes claimed in his book ‘On Fire’ that Dhoni did not show intent in their clash at Birmingham. (Credits: Twitter)

Hardik Pandya kept India in the game and Rishabh Pant also tried but when Pant fell, India needed 112 runs from 65 balls. Dhoni played the sheet anchor role at one end while Pandya went for the boundaries. When he fell for 45, India needed 71 off 31 balls.

At that time, England continued employing the short ball close to the body at both Dhoni and Kedar Jadhav. Cramped for room and not so much pace to work with, both batsmen could not find the boundary. Trying to smash slow bouncers is a tough task for any batsmen. England’s bowlers were simply exceptional with their plans and lengths and it paid off.

Pakistan conspiracy flat

Thus, when one looks at the match, has a memory of that game and corroborates it with Ball-by-Ball commentary from websites, it is clear that Dhoni had intent. It was just that England’s bowlers stepped up on a big day.

Woakes 2019 World Cup
Chris Woakes celebrates a wicket during India vs England match in 2019 World Cup. (Credits: Twitter)

As for Pakistan, their conspiracy theories fall flat as always. They paid the price for their poor show against West Indies and Australia. Their heavy loss to the West Indies was a death blow. But, to accuse India of not wanting to win to keep them out is simply farcical.

The comments by Abdul Razzaq, who labelled Jasprit Bumrah a ‘baby bowler’, makes you wonder how legitimate he truly is. Pakistan ‘analysts’ always have had a dodgy record of quotes. But for Stokes, this comment has ensured his book is a best-seller. One has to thank social media selectivity for it.

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