Former Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara has said he was able to spot the determination in MS Dhoni's eyes during the Chennai Super Kings captain's match-winning knock against Royal Challengers Bangalore at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium on Tuesday, April 25.
The 40-year-old opined that Dhoni had made his intentions clear as early as in the second ball of his innings when he hit Pawan Negi for a six over mid-wicket. He heaped praise on the CSK skipper for "leading from the front" after the visitors conceded a mammoth 205 to Virat Kohli's men.
Dhoni had no hesitation to field first after winning the toss but his plans were thwarted as AB de Villiers, who walked in at No. 3, smashed a 30-ball 68, which included eight huge sixes. CSK pulled it back with some fine death bowling but were not able to keep RCB down to less than 200 on a track that was assisting the spinners.
CSK were pegged back early as they lost Shane Watson and Suresh Raina inside the powerplay. They were reeling at 74 for 4 at the end of nine overs before Dhoni and Ambati Rayudu took the attack to the opposition and stitched a 101-run stand in just 53 balls.
Even as CSK required 45 runs off the last three overs to do what seemed impossible, Dhoni held his nerves and kept tonking the balls out of the ground with ease, showing glimpses of his vintage self.
Dhoni remained unbeaten on 70 runs from 34 balls and took CSK past the finish line with a huge six over mid-wicket. He had already launched six big ones before the final nail in RCB's coffin was struck.
'Dhoni was outstanding'
"He [Dhoni] has been captain momentum throughout the tournament, slowly building up to this kind of innings. It was just outstanding, what a champion [he is]. Leading from the front, especially after they had a tough time in the field," Sangakkara told Star Sports during the post-match discussion show Wednesday.
"We knew that he was in the game from the second ball of his innings when he hit a six against the spinner [Negi]. You could see it in his eyes. Everytime he hit a stroke, he stared down the bowler. He was on today, he was there for the win.
"Don't forget Ambati Rayudu's knock but Dhoni, with the way he selected the bowlers to go after, was great."
Sangakkara lauds 'Chennai Senior Kings'
Meanwhile, Sangakkara also heaped praise on the think tank of the Super Kings for putting together an experienced and balanced squad for IPL 2018. He added that Dhoni's role in the "Senior Kings" line-up is pivotal to the team's success.
A lot of eyebrows were raised when CSK assembled a squad, which has 11 players aged 30 and above (average age of the squad is 29).
Doubts were raised over the two-time champions' ability to dominate the league but Dhoni's men have answered the critics in style with some clever and skillful performances.
With five wins from six games, CSK are on top of the points table, tied on points with Kings XI Punjab. If standing from previous seasons are anything go to go by, Dhoni's team would be able to seal a spot in the playoffs with two or three more wins in the upcoming matches.
"We have heard about his side being old - the Senior Kings. I think they made some great choices, they have a balanced side and the experience is coming into play in tough situations," Sangakkara said.
"I think Dhoni plays a pivotal role. He is able to finish and also able to construct an innings. It's important that he keeps doing that because it's a role CSK need him to play because he takes the team to areas, which probably seem impossible," the Sri Lankan great added.