Team India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni will face one of the trickiest tests of his international career as he frets on a perfect batting combination when India take on South Africa in the must-win fourth ODI in Chennai on Thursday in a bid to level the series.
Down 1-2 and with a bunch of batsmen not showing enough flexibility at different positions, it has become a tough task for Dhoni, who is facing the danger of losing a home ODI series and a second straight one after the 1-2 defeat against Bangladesh earlier this year.
If Ravichandran Ashwin’s side strain is one of the many on-field worries for Dhoni, the problems have been compounded by off-field woes as legspinner Amit Mishra faces assault charges with a woman filing a case against the leg-spinner at the Bengaluru police station. It is still not clear whether Mishra will play or not.
Run chases have been a problem of late for the Indian team as the skipper himself has admitted that the side is yet to figure out as to who are the ideal players at Nos. 5, 6 and 7. These are the three slots where batsmen who are capable of big hits and can be finishers in close run chases are preferred.
However, with an ageing Dhoni preferring to bat up the order, Ajinkya Rahane is yet to find his mojo at No 5 or 6. Although Dhoni’s deputy Virat Kohli finally got some ODI runs (77) in the last game, it came in a losing cause.
But Kohli scored the moment he was back at his preferred No 3 slot while Rahane, the moment he was demoted, couldn’t get going after two half-centuries in the first two games.
Suresh Raina is another player who is not in good form. Only three runs from 3 matches is not a fair indication of one of India’s better limited-overs cricketers but Raina is certainly going through a lean patch which has increased the pressure on the other batsmen.
While Rohit Sharma is in the form of his life in the shorter versions with more success than failures in recent times, the same can’t be said about his opening partner Shikhar Dhawan, who has managed only 59 runs in three matches. Strangely, Dhawan has so far scored three centuries in his last three Test matches but sadly that form has not rubbed off on him when in coloured clothes.
Dhoni has so far done a lot of shuffling with the batting order and it will be interesting to see what exactly will be the permutations and combinations he’ll try in tomorrow’s game.