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Write-off Dhoni at your own peril!

Even the most successful Indian captain could not escape criticisms
Even the most successful Indian captain could not escape criticisms

Most successful Indian captain. Only captain to lift all three limited overs world titles. Second on the list of most runs scored by a wicket keeper batsman in ODIs. That is quite an impressive CV to have. Yet, a lot of questions have been asked about Mahendra Singh Dhoni of late.

The life of a cricketer becomes tough once he enters his mid-thirties and the same is the case with Dhoni. Even though his overall numbers remain stellar, his skills may be slightly on the decline. Does that mean one writes him off altogether? May be not! As compared to an overall average of 51.32 and a strike rate of 88.69, Dhoni averages 41.50 in the last couple of years. His strike rate too is down to 83.62. Mind you, these are not bad numbers by any means. He is at a stage of his career when the engine is taking slightly longer to warm up and those big shots are taking a little longer to come out.

There has been a lot of criticism about his recent fifty against the West Indies. The problem with people and experts is that they tend to magnify failures more than successes. There is no doubt that Dhoni has set high standards for his fans and for the critics, but at this stage he should probably be allowed a little extra breathing space. His keeping remains as good as it ever was and his contribution on the field for a young captain cannot be replaced. Even the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid struggled to live up to their high standards late in their careers.

There is no doubt that someone as explosive as Rishabh Pant deserves an opportunity and he will get a chance to showcase his talent. In the meantime, India could look at the larger picture and look to remodel their squad based on their new found strengths. As Hardik Pandya continues to make his mark, his big hitting can make him the ideal finisher alongside Kedar Jadhav. What they also need to consider is whether both Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja need to be persisted with or should one permanently make way for Kuldeep Yadav.

While both have been potent weapons for India in the longer format, the same cannot be said of them in the ODI format. Jadeja’s batting average drops to 22 (from 31.37 overall) in the last two years while his bowling average shoots up to 64.63 (overall 35.70) during the same period. The same can be said of Ashwin. His bowling average too inflates to 55.79 (overall 32.91) over the last two years while his batting average has come down to six from 16.07.

Stats don’t always tell you the story but they are always the highlight of any debate or discussion. Very few people would have looked at the numbers of Ashwin and Jadeja. However, deep diving into the larger picture reveals more worries for India than just Dhoni’s inability to finish off innings. If he continues to bat at four then the onus falls on Yuvraj Singh, Jadhav and Pandya. With the experience he has, he probably deserves the freedom to choose his spot in the batting order.

From what we have seen, Dhoni is not one to stick around if he doesn’t feel his contribution isn’t good enough for the team. From what we have seen, there is still plenty of cricket left in him!

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