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MS Dhoni under pressure to prove best-finisher tag in India vs England series

With India scheduled to play ODI cricket again in June for the Champions Trophy, the upcoming three ODIs and three T20Is against England will pretty much decide whether MS Dhoni’s international career-graph will head south or north after February 1

cricket Updated: Jan 09, 2017 22:58 IST
MS Dhoni will play in Virat Kohli’s as a wicket-keeper batsman. With the burden of captaincy off him, can Dhoni make himself count during the India vs England series?
MS Dhoni will play in Virat Kohli’s as a wicket-keeper batsman. With the burden of captaincy off him, can Dhoni make himself count during the India vs England series?(PTI)

Not too long back, seven months to be exact, MS Dhoni shocked himself and India when he couldn’t blast Zimbabwe pacer Neville Madziva for a last-ball boundary. The world knew that was Dhoni’s bread and butter -- taking the game to the wire before those helicopter liftoffs gave India famous victories. But this was indication that either Dhoni was slipping or his opponents had finally found his weakness.

He might be one of the most gifted brains behind the stumps or as captain but MS Dhoni’s legacy will always be measured by those sixes and fours.

On many occasions MS Dhoni has been zealously guarded by friends and admirers who swear by his physical fitness.

But in the age of Virat Kohli who has set a new benchmark for agility, Dhoni is now like Windows 8 compared to the Windows 10 that’s running India now. The equation will be more skewed in 2019, the year MS Dhoni apparently has been targeting.

So where does Dhoni stand right now after being forced out of captaincy?

To show he is still a suitable candidate for the 2019 World Cup based purely on his skills as wicket-keeper batsman, MS Dhoni has no other choice but to prove his finisher tag again.

A six-match acid test for MS Dhoni

With India scheduled to play ODI cricket again in June for the Champions Trophy, the upcoming three ODIs and three T20Is against England will pretty much decide whether MS Dhoni’s international career-graph will head south or north after February 1.

This is possibly the toughest challenge for Dhoni in recent times. Over the years, Dhoni’s batting looks more laboured, almost bordering on cumbersome. When he doesn’t get those boundaries, Dhoni often tends to allow the pressure to build to a point of no return.

He doesn’t have many shots through cover or down the ground so he tries to compensate by running hard between wickets. Pitch it up to him though and Dhoni can shred any bowling. Somehow however, Dhoni doesn’t seem to live up to the ever-changing demands of limited-overs cricket.

Maybe that’s why he had given thought to changing his role.

Mixed results

After the 2015 World Cup, Dhoni came up the batting order to No. 4 at least once in every ODI series with mixed results. In Dhaka, in 2015, Dhoni failed to prevent Bangladesh from taking a 2-0 lead despite scoring 47. Next match though, he bettered his strike rate to make 69 and pull back one for India. Since that series, Dhoni has batted at No.4 at least once against South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

But despite his efforts, the numbers are not in favour of Dhoni.

Against a career ODI batting average of 50.89, Dhoni averages 38.25 in the last two years. Last year’s IPL was a lone walk for MS Dhoni who clearly looked overburdened with a team grappling to deal with so many superstars.

Now that he isn’t captain, Dhoni won’t be able to make those impulsive changes he was known for.

Out of reverence, Virat Kohli is expected to ask Dhoni where he would want to bat. But the final decision will lie only with Kohli.

So essentially, only Dhoni can plead his case. Six games are all that Dhoni has to prove he is still the best at the business of providing the winning touch.