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Virat’s maturity as finisher gives Dhoni licence to be trigger-happy again

After India’s failed campaign Down Under, Dhoni has come up the batting order to No 4 at least once in every series.

cricket Updated: Oct 25, 2016 10:40 IST
Somshuvra Laha
By promoting himself against South Africa, Australia and now New Zealand, MS Dhoni finally is willing to assume a different role.
By promoting himself against South Africa, Australia and now New Zealand, MS Dhoni finally is willing to assume a different role.(Keshav Singh/HT Photo)

In a career bookmarked by that innings in the 2011 World Cup final, MS Dhoni’s instinctive self-promotions have been few and far between. Of late though, since the World Cup last year to be precise, this impulse shows a pattern. After India’s failed campaign Down Under, Dhoni has come up the batting order to No 4 at least once in every series.

The results have been mixed though. Like in the extremely passionate series in Dhaka last year where Dhoni failed to prevent Bangladesh from taking an unassailable 2-0 lead despite scoring 47. In the next match, however, he bettered his strike rate while scoring 69 to pull one back for India.

By promoting himself against South Africa, Australia and now New Zealand, Dhoni finally is willing to assume another role.

Pressure to deliver

Dhoni’s 80 in Mohali was his first half-century in just over a year. (Keshav Singh/HT Photo)

As captain, Dhoni can bat anywhere he wants to. But that innings in the World Cup final, coming at No. 5 ahead of Yuvraj Singh, strengthened the belief that only Dhoni has to finish the game. He revelled in that role for a long time, giving India memorable wins. But in the process, Dhoni started becoming conscious of it. Coming in at No. 6 --- the position where he has batted the most --- he felt obliged to win India every game. This is why Dhoni began taking the less risky route of collecting singles and doubles and taking the game to the wire over bludgeoning opponents into submission.

The scenario has changed though after Virat Kohli becoming India’s go-to man. Fastest to 26 centuries, Virat’s talent was never in question. But the numbers he has stacked up during chases are mindboggling. In the 59 matches India have won chasing with Virat in the side, he has compiled 3,514 runs at an average of 90.10 and a strike rate of 97.25. Dhoni has 2,428 runs at an average of 101.16 and a strike rate of 90.36 in 62 such innings. Interestingly, Dhoni and Kohli have an identical highest individual score while chasing --- 183. And both have come while batting at No 3.

The Virat factor

Kohli and Dhoni’s 151-run partnership saw India overhaul a challenging target with relative ease. (PTI)

While Kohli was always assured of a top order spot, Dhoni demoted himself to shore up India’s chances in the absence of finishers. As a result, India could not utilise one of the most explosive batsmen at the top. But Virat’s maturity as a finisher gives Dhoni the licence to be trigger-happy again.

It’s not just about Virat though. The way Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma and even Hardik Pandya are coming up the ranks gives Dhoni the opportunity to go back to his old ways. “It was something I wanted to do for a long time, but if you are batting at No 5 or No 6, and especially when your top order is batting brilliantly, you don’t get the chance to bat how you want to,” Dhoni had said after Sunday’s win.

Given how he batted in Mohali, and then confessed his days as a finisher might be over, many more such promotions could be in the pipeline.

Read:

I’m losing my ability to freely rotate strike in the middle order: MS Dhoni