Bangalore: India’s premier domestic one-day cricket tournament for Vijay Hazare Trophy began on Thursday and all eyes were on ODI cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who was playing his first domestic match in 8 years. But it came as a disappointment for his fans as Dhoni, representing Jharkhand, struggled to score runs freely and then got out cheaply against a spirited Jammu & Kashmir side.
However, Jharkhand managed to beat J&K in a hard-fought match by 9 runs to save Dhoni from further embarrassment. Batting first, Jharkhand scored a below par 210 in 50 overs and then restricted J&K to 201 for 7.
J&K bowlers did a good job to reduce Jharkhand to 81 for 4 despite opener Ishank Jaggi’s half-century at the Alur Cricket Stadium-II. Knowing that Dhoni is a master in rescuing from tough situations, Jharkhand rested their hopes of posting a big total on him.
Dhoni, who was playing under the captaincy of Varun Aaron, batted at his favourite No. 5 position and the situation was tailor-made for the captain cool to play a big innings and rescue his side from a difficult situation.
But Dhoni, returning to cricket after a month and a half, wasn’t at his best as he struggled to rotate strike against J&K’s inspired bowling attack led by captain Parvez Rasool, an honest and inspirational leader who has brought the state’s cricket to the forefront.
After struggling to find for 24 balls, Dhoni got out scoring just 9 runs. An innings that many were hoping to be memorable ended up as a disappointment.
However, Jharkhand’s lower-order led by Kaushal Singh (53) came handy and added some important runs to take their total to a competitive 210 in 50 overs.
Dhoni has retired from Test cricket and has enough time to make himself available for his state Jharkhand. However, playing domestic cricket is also important for Dhoni to keep himself in touch with competitive cricket.
Dhoni led India against South Africa in the Twenty20 and ODI series in September and since then he hasn’t played any cricket. So, before heading to Australia for a limited-overs series, it was essential for him to get into practice. And what better way than to play a competitive match.
Jharkhand is not known to be strong side in the domestic circles but the presence of Dhoni raised hopes that they could be a contender for the knock-out round.
When J&K batted, it was the turn of left-arm spinner and IPL regular Shahbaz Nadeem (3/28) to torment the opposition while India's Test pacer Varun Aaron (0/52 in 10 overs) was taken to task by Rasool.
While Aaron was the official captain, it was virtually Dhoni, who led the side as his experience of bowling changes came in handy in the end.
Opener Shubham Khajuria (60) wasted too many balls during his 106-ball knock. Rasool looked in good touch scoring 63 off 67 balls before he was bowled off a Jaskaran delivery ending J&K chances of winning the match.