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Why you shouldn't write off MS Dhoni

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MS_Dhoni_India_Cricket_T20MS Dhoni's current situation presents selectors with something of a quandary.

A 'slow' innings of 49 against the Kiwis in the second T20I at Rajkot had people raising their eyebrows yet again. According to some, Dhoni derailed the chase; they felt he should've had a go right from ball 1. There has been talk that his hard-hitting abilities have massively diminished and he is not the player he was a few years ago.

One of the main reasons why Chennai Super Kings was successful is that they had a reliable batsman who could stabilize the innings: Subramaniam Badrinath, who announced his retirement recently. In a team full of big-hitters, MS Dhoni is perfectly suited to play the stabilizing role for India and can use his bottom hand to hit as well.

 

Let's take a look at his stats. He has scored 221 runs in his last 10 T20I innings, at an average of 31.57 and a strike-rate of 133. That's a decent strike-rate given that he comes in to bat at the death, where he barely gets to face a ball. Out of those 10 innings, he faced less than 7 deliveries on 4 occasions. The ideal position for him is at number 4. On the contrary, he is being brought in at Number 6 or Number 7 at times as well.

 

Legendary South African pacer, Makhaya Ntini, who played with MS Dhoni in the IPL for Chennai Super Kings says that he is a batsman who could change the tide of the game. "He can never be finished. He’s a legend. The moment you write him off, he rises up," he said.

People were skeptical about Dhoni’s abilities after he failed to take India home in the final over in the first ODI against South Africa back in 2015 and slammed him for it. He shut down his critics in the very next match, scoring a brilliant 92, which helped India post a respectable total after losing a few wickets initially. It went on to be a match-winning knock. Though India lost the series, it proved that MS Dhoni can never be finished.

MS Dhoni has now adopted a new technique to face modern bowlers. He has begun to plant his front foot against the spinners more often than not, similar to Alastair Cook. Against pacers, Dhoni has adopted a stance which offers him the ability to keep down the shorter deliveries, which are one of his weaknesses.

 

He is a batsman who would take some time to get going but when he gets going, he will be hard to stop. This is why it is vital that he bats at number 4 even in T20Is. His strike-rate is 175 when he bats at number 4 and it goes on decreasing for every position he comes down in the batting order - to that of 113 at Number 6. India has tried out 8 different batsmen at the number 4 slot in T20Is and, barring KL Rahul who played solitary innings in that slot, nobody has a better strike rate and he comes in a healthy second when it comes to average, only behind Virat Kohli.

 

The loss at Rajkot can be attributed to various reasons. The top-order, barring Kohli, misfired as the openers were dismissed cheaply and Shreyas Iyer, who showed promise initially, failed to capitalize on his start and was removed. Pandya was cleaned up for a duck, courtesy of a beauty from Sodhi. The bowling wasn't top-notch though, and India lost half the battle in the first innings after conceding a score of 195 and losing half the top-order in the first 6 overs while batting.

A statistical report shows that India has won all the matches where he has scored 60% of the runs required while chasing in T20s and 85% of the matches when he has scored at least 30% of the runs required while chasing. From 2005 to 2011, MS Dhoni's performance had a huge impact on the side's chases. But since then, his performances have helped the side but haven’t been as impactful.

It wasn't surprising to see a player of Virat Kohli's caliber come in defense of the former skipper. "First, I don't understand why are people only pointing him out, I'm not able to understand this. If I fail three times, no one is going to point fingers at me because I'm not over 35. The guy is fit, he is passing all the fitness tests, he is contributing to the team in every way possible, tactically on the field, with the bat," said Kohli.

 

It can be seen on the field that MS Dhoni takes part in the decision-making process during matches and helps Virat Kohli. There are plenty of people who want the 'fearless' brand of cricket in T20Is. Yes, the number of balls is limited. If there's a scenario wherein the top order fails, who’s of more use: a 'fearless' batsman who is just going to swing his bat at every delivery or the one who applies himself to the situation of the innings?

 

Bringing in a young batsman at this stage, before the World T20 in 2020 is a great idea. But it should also be made sure that the new boy has the ability to handle the pressure of the hopes of a billion people.

Different cricketing legends feel that Dhoni should be dropped or should change his batting methods. But, deep down, they all know that there cannot be another player who could offer as much as he does in different aspects of the game. You simply cannot write this legend off. If you do, he will definitely come back fighting and give it back to you.

 

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