It’s not easy to suddenly pull down MS Dhoni from his World Cup-winning eminence to a position of trying to stay relevant. Making sweeping changes in the team after just one loss however points towards desperation, which is unlike Dhoni.
As does the attempt to steady the innings by coming at No.4, a position Dhoni has batted in just 18 times before in his ODI career. Neither clicked.
Normally, Dhoni isn’t wrong when it comes to deciding horses for courses. However, dropping Ajinkya Rahane for Ambati Rayudu made little sense. Rayudu came when India were desperate for another partnership after Shikhar Dhawan threw away his wicket.
But going against accepted wisdom, Rayudu tried to cut a short delivery just three balls into his stay. The ball flew to Nasir Hossain at point.
Axar Patel has shown promise with the bat. But the way he played across the line to a straight delivery first up was disappointing.
Of much more concern though is Dhoni’s form with the bat. Dhoni has often made public his desire to take the game to the end.
He virtually held the copyright to a slow buildup and final assault. Perhaps, he was braced for the same when he promoted himself on Sunday.
Cautious in playing out Nasir Hossain, Dhoni didn’t hold back from punching Rubel Hossain for two boundaries. Another punch next over and Nasir conceded the first boundary of his spell. Dhoni carved the off-spinner yet again in the 21st over but after that never scored another boundary. It took a toll on his strike rate.
After the series defeat to Bangladesh, under-fire Dhoni has said in a sarcastic tone that if his removal from captaincy can help Indian cricket move in right direction then he is ready to quit.
"I am always the one who is responsible for anything bad that happens in Indian cricket. Everything that happens is because of me. Even the Bangladesh media is smiling," Dhoni gave a tongue-in-cheek reply to a question at the post-match press conference after India suffered the ignominy of their first ever series defeat against Bangladesh.
This is something seen in Dhoni’s batting over the last few months — waiting too long for that final assault. He continued running the singles but with Bangladesh hardly allowing any easy boundaries, pressure started getting to the batsmen at the other end. As captain, Dhoni should have drilled sense into his partners and taken the game to the last five overs. And he should have scored some boundaries that could have rid his partners of the pressure.
Only his partners would know whether Dhoni had a calming effect on them. India’s purpose though wasn’t served. That cutter from Mustafizur was deceptive enough for Dhoni to commit early into the shot, jabbing at the ball to be caught at short cover. Dhoni left India in a pit they couldn’t climb out of, yet again.