MS Dhoni: The Final Bastion or A Weak Link?

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As a steep bouncer from Boult took the upper part of Dhoni's bat and deposited safely into Santner's palms, it summed up the game for Dhoni and for India. MSD was one short of his second international T20 half century but it was not to be.

If we look at Dhoni's score exclusively there is very little scope of finding fault with it. His 49 of 37 balls was not only the second highest score in the Indian batting lineup but he also scored it at the second highest click. It is only when we analyze it in the context of the match where India needed close to ten runs per over from ball one, we find that a SR of 132 was not good enough.

It brings us back to our popular (read unpopular) subject of whether MSD deserves a place in the Indian T20 side with young talent waiting in the sidelines. But hold on a second! Is it actually Dhoni who is to be blamed for India's 40 run loss to New Zealand?

Its Dhoni's fault

While he was still the captain of India, the one liner, 'Its Dhoni's fault' had become so popular that it not only inspired several Memes but also featured in trending Youtube videos. However, he has now stepped down as the ODI and the T20 captain but this disposition of the Indian fans remains.

If we add the score of all other Indian batsmen in the 2nd T20 except Kohli and Dhoni it amounts to 38 runs of 41 balls. The fact is that the Indian batting left it far too late. If such a mammoth target had to be chased it needed a good opening stand so that the momentum could be carried through the middle overs.

The Indian batting actually never got going but this is not a one off incident. If we go through the number of matches for which Dhoni has borne the brunt of India's loss we find that in most cases the highlight has been the utter collapse of the Indian batting. This puts Dhoni in a very tricky situation which is not to lose his wicket (on which the hope of a billion Indians rests) but score briskly at the same time.

More often than not, he has tried to take the match closer. It's true that off late his success rate has been dipping long time. But it is what makes him human, isn't it?
Dhoni's batting order

The second question that arises is the batting order at which Dhoni should be slotted if he still fits into the scheme of things in the Indian T20 side.

It was the 2015-16 Indian tour of Australia where Dhoni himself conceded that he needed some time to get going. If we keep that in mind then whether the current no 6 spot is in anyway suited for the former captain. In fact is there any spot in T20s which allows you time to settle in?

Is there a pattern?

The visuals of a teary eyed Dhoni after being run out in the semi final of the 2015 WC have been ever embedded in the consciousness of Indian cricket fans. After hitting Shane Watson for back to back sixes, MSD perished to a rocket throw from Maxwell and with him perished the hopes of India of defending the World Cup title.

In the 2016 T20 world cup semi final against West Indies, apart from a few glimpses of vintage Dhoni, he mostly farmed the strike. It was Virat Kohli who scored bulk of the boundaries.

Even in 2013, in the tri-series final against Sri Lanka, Dhoni, returning from a hamstring injury played out Mathews and Malinga without scoring off them. It was only in Shaminda Eranga's final over in which India needed 15 to win, Mahi cut loose and muscled India to a victory.

Vice or Virtue

When MSD was in his prime, he made the spectators skip a beat with his breath taking finishes. It was this habit of keeping too much for far too late and delivering 8 times out of 10 which earned him the title of the world's best finisher. Now, towards the fag end of his career with age not on his side it is this very attribute that is proving to be an Achilles ' heel for him.

With time, Dhoni's role in the team has also changed. However inauspicious it may seem but he is no longer the flamboyant finisher that he once used to be. His role is now more of a sheet anchor who can hold the team together. While it is still working quite well for him in the ODIs to have a mild start and make up for it in the latter part, such is the nature of T20s that it is almost sinful to play dot balls.

At the end of the day, one also has to appreciate the grit with which Williamson and his boys played. When we celebrate victory as a team, we also have to be gracious in the moments of defeat. As far as Dhoni is concerned, it would be too early to write him off. He has proved time and again that though aging, he is a lion nonetheless and more than capable on pouncing on his prey on his day.

 

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