West Indies great Michael Holding jumped to the defence of MS Dhoni after England all-rounder Ben Stokes had criticised the former India captain’s approach in the closing stages of the group-stage encounter of the 2019 World Cup.
Chasing a mammoth 338 to win, Virat Kohli’s side could manage only 306/5. India’s intent in the last ten overs attracted a lot of criticism, even from current Board of Control for Cricket in India president Sourav Ganguly at the time.
Going into the game, which was played at Birmingham, India had already qualified for the semi-finals whereas it was a do-or-die encounter for the hosts, who went on to lift the trophy.
“Arguably, the way MS Dhoni played when he came in with 112 runs needed from 11 overs was even stranger,” Stokes wrote in his book On Fire.
“He appeared more intent on singles than sixes. Even with a dozen balls remaining, India could still have won. There was little or no intent from him [Dhoni] or his partner Kedar Jadhav. To me, while victory is still possible you always go for broke,” the Englishman added.
Holding, one of well-respected voices in the game, didn’t agree with Stokes’s observations.
“Well, people will write anything in books these days, because people are a lot more free with their opinions and when they are writing books, they need to be making headlines at times,” the pace ace said in an interview on Youtube.
“But, to be honest, a lot of people watching that game perhaps wouldn’t have arrived to the same conclusion that Ben Stokes arrived at that India were not trying to win.
“It wasn’t the game that India had to win, but I don’t think anyone can say that was a team tactic to lose the game.
“I watched that game and it appeared to me as if India weren’t putting up their 100%, but I realized it wasn’t the case when the expression on MS Dhoni’s face told me that he desperately wanted to win, so I don’t think it was a team decision to not try to win,” Holding added.
“But I don’t think they went with the same intensity of wanting to win the game, say, if it was a do-or-die situation. If it was, we would have seen a different game.”
India could only manage 28 runs in the first ten overs during their chase, something that Holding didn’t have a problem with.
“The scoring rate ... it depends on a lot of things; depends on the conditions; depends on whether the ball is moving around. The important thing is to keep wickets in hand,” the 68-year-old said.
Watch the full interview featuring Michael Holding here: