Team India’s veteran wicketkeeper-batsman MS Dhoni got to a fifty in the first ODI against Australia in Sydney on Saturday. The half-century must have brought some relief to the 37-year-old, whose last best score came was 42* against South Africa in February 2018 in Johannesburg.
Since then, he managed a laboured 36 and 42 in England. This innings of 51 at the SCG was much needed for the veteran to bring some stability in his batting.
Dhoni has been the cynosure of all eyes since quite some time, regarding his form and the manner in which he has been getting the runs. Not too long ago he was criticized for his performance in England, where he was blamed to have not shown any fight in the two matches where India chased.
It was a test of character for the legend against the Aussies. The Indian team was reeling at 4/3 when he walked into the crease and joined Rohit Sharma in the middle. And one saw him take his time to settle in and assert himself. It wasn’t a laboured show this time around. Dhoni did what the situation demanded. Perhaps many will look at his consumption rate of 96 balls and feel his execution was missing.
But one needs to give the player some time and look at the brighter picture. There is more than what the statistic says.
Dhoni fitted in as the anchorman
With Rohit playing freely as the match progressed, Dhoni took the guard as an anchor and made sure India did not lose any more wickets. What followed was a 137-run stand for the fourth wicket with Rohit. The asking rate was still in control when Dhoni was finally dismissed in the 33rd over.
India needed another 148 runs to seal victory from 105 deliveries. That was gettable with the mindset batsmen apply these days. Earlier in the innings, Australia scored 93 runs from the last 10. The math then justifies the why India was still in control.
Unfortunately, the ones who followed him, couldn’t support Rohit and India ended up losing the tie by 34 runs. Australia took a commendable 1-0 lead in the series. Some critics would point out what if Dhoni had scored a 70-ball 50 sort of an innings. This has been the call since a while regarding the veteran.
One shouldn’t forget the hard work MSD put while playing at the SCG on Saturday. The Aussie bowlers did well and the contest for most part was always 50-50. Aussies knew that they had to break the stand and get back in the game once again. And that’s what exactly happened.
Dhoni unlucky to miss out on a review
Dhoni looked a bit tired and played a lazy shot to be trapped LBW. He could not review the decision. Replays showed that the ball wasn’t in line, having pitched outside the leg-stump despite hitting the stumps. Unfortunately for him, his predecessor Ambati Rayudu had used up the review left for an LBW appeal that looked plumb.
If Dhoni had batted for a little longer, India would have fancied a victory here at the SCG. Even Aussie pacer Jhye Richardson, who picked 4/26 in the match, told later on that the hosts were lucky to have dismissed the player LBW.
“There was a period there when they had a partnership through the middle and it almost could have taken the game away from us. But we were lucky to get Dhoni out lbw and we kept getting wickets from there on,” Richardson said, while accepting his man of the match award.
What’s Dhoni’s role for Team India?
Dhoni is likely to bat at number five for India and will be out in the middle mostly during the middle overs or towards the end depending on the situation. Like on Saturday, there could be an occasion here and there, where he might be coming in much earlier. Dhoni’s role is clear. He is the anchorman of this side and is looked upon as someone to steady things in the middle.
We all know that he isn’t the finisher of the yesteryears, who can get those lusty blows at regular intervals. He has been a much calmer entity for quite some time.
In terms of confidence, this innings will definitely boost Dhoni and help him in the remaining 12 ODI matches India will be playing ahead of the ICC World Cup starting May 30, 2019.
Hitman Rohit Sharma believes that Dhoni could be promoted to number four as that can help him get some more time. What could possibly happen is that there could be a rotation policy if Ambati Rayudu fails to cash in on the chances leading to the World Cup.
Dhoni’s struggles are an issue, but give him some time!
Dhoni has struggled at times to find it going, but this innings will serve him well. He needs to spend some more time in the middle and the consistency factor could come back. It is not his hitting but the strike rotation which is bothering him since a while.
Dhoni is middling the ball well, but is finding the fielders. The singles and doubles which helped him settle early on in his innings have dried up. But we all know that the legend is capable of turning the tides. That’s why there is so much trust from both the selectors and the management.
India need to sort other issues
MSD will be a pivotal member of this side until the World Cup. And what India need to sort before that is to find a suitable number six and number seven. These two places are still not sorted. India will have to choose from Dinesh Karthik, Rishabh Pant, Kedar Jadhav and KL Rahul for the number six position.
Then comes in the all-rounder. One between Hardik Pandya or Ravindra Jadeja will get a look in the playing XI.
Can this bunch of players be the finishers Team India desperately needs? Dhoni should be let off the burden now. He will win India matches and be there as someone staying right until the end, but the side needs more than Dhoni. That’s where the players in contention come to the scene.
Dhoni adds more than just a batsman. His keeping and influence behind the stumps are at another level. Stop limiting his contribution by the deliveries he is soaking. He just brings so much more to this Indian cricket team!