Former India cricketer Gautam Gambhir slammed Mahendra Singh Dhoni for his uncharacteristically slow start in Chennai Super Kings’ unsuccessful run chase in their Indian Premier League match against Rajasthan Royals.

CSK captain Dhoni sent young England all-rounder Sam Curran and debutant Ruturaj Gaikwad ahead of him in his team’s chase of 217 in Sharjah on Tuesday.

Finally coming into bat in the 14th over, the veteran wicketkeeper-batsman scored just 10 runs off his first 13 balls while partner Faf du Plessis was on a hitting spree in his 72-run blitz including seven sixes. He only got going in the final over to hit three successive sixes but by then the chase was beyond Chennai who lost by 16 runs. He remained not out on 29 off 17 balls.

“This is not what you call leading from the front. Batting at No. 7 when you’re chasing what...213 (217)? The game was over. Faf was probably the lone warrior,” former India opener Gautam Gambhir told ESPNcricinfo.

“Yes, you can talk about MS Dhoni’s last over, but it was of no use, to be honest. It was just all personal runs,” he added.

Dhoni, on his part, explained the reasoning behind this decision. “I haven’t batted for a long time. 14-day quarantine doesn’t help,” the 39-year-old said after the match, referring to CSK’s extra one-week quarantine after 13 people in their contingent tested positive for Covid-19.

“Also wanted to try different things, give opportunities to Sam. Have the opportunity to try different things. If it doesn’t work, you can always go back to your strengths.”

The former India captain announced his international retirement last month.

However, Gambhir was of the opinion that in the absence of veteran Suresh Raina, who returned from UAE for personal reasons, Dhoni has added responsibility.

“When you don’t have Suresh Raina, you’re making people believe that Sam Curran is better than you. You’re making people believe that Ruturaj Gaikwad, Curran, Kedar Jadhav, Faf du Plessis, M Vijay, all these guys, are better than you,” he said.

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Curran had smashed 18 off six balls after being promoted ahead of Dhoni in Chennai’s win over holders Mumbai Indians in the IPL opener last week.

Chennai coach Stephen Fleming told reporters, “MS is a specialist at the end of the innings, always has been.”

“Curran was there to try and hit us and keep us in the game at that point when we were falling behind. He’s got good hitting power like we saw. Ruturaj... it was his first game and we wanted to get him into the game, into the order. We wanted to be aggressive, we’ve got a long batting order and we’re just trying to use our resources smartly.”

The 39-year-old Dhoni last played in India’s semi-final exit of the 2019 World Cup. He had come under fire for batting slowly in the slog overs during last year’s 50-overs showpiece event as well.

With AFP Inputs