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Time for a turnaround

Dhoni hasn't been in the best of form and it's time the India skipper comes good, writes Sanjjeev Karan Samyal. Key numbers

india Updated: Mar 29, 2011 01:48 IST
Sanjjeev Karan Samyal

If Virender Sehwag and Virat Kohli launched India's Cup campaign with blistering hundreds in the opener at Dhaka, Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh and Gautam Gambhir continued the team's march with consistent performances.

The worry at the start was that India were banking on individual performances, but when required, the batting line-up produced a team effort to knock out defending champions Australia. Suresh Raina, out of favour till then, came good at the right time.

As the batsmen gear up for the high voltage semifinal against Pakistan, there is a vital cog which remains a cause of concern. Mahendra Singh Dhoni is the only batsman who will go into the game low on confidence.

Aggression needed
In seven outings, the skipper's highest score is 34, but the bigger worry is the strike rate of 71.83. A cause of anxiety has been India's inability to shift gears towards the end of the innings, and Dhoni's poor run has contributed to it.

His strike rate is much below the career rate of 87.39. In fact, it is the slowest he has batted in any series. "When you change your intent, you have to make a lot of technical adjustments. His success was based on aggression; he was an all out attacking batsman," explained a former India stalwart.

Lack of opportunityhttp://www.hindustantimes.com/images/HTPopups/290311/29_03_11_pg21a.jpg

Dhoni attributed his lack of runs to lack of opportunities. "If you see our batting, our top order has batted really well, which means more often than not the lower order is getting to bat when they are looking to accelerate or when we have lost quite a few wickets and again we are looking to bat for whatever number of overs are left," Dhoni said.

"I'm satisfied with the effort but of course the more runs we score, the better it is for the side," he added.

Form check
There are different ways of checking a player's form. The pull and hook is a decent test, especially in Dhoni's case. When these horizontal bat shots come out well off his blade, it's an ominous sign for the bowlers.

"You can play a great cover drive or a powerful square-cut but the stroke which proves to the bowler that you are on top of him, is the pull shot," said Australia's batting star of the 1970s, Doug Walters.

It's not just about the runs added to the team total, there is a certain importance attached to the personal form of the captain. An in-form leader can inspire the team with his deeds.

There have been exceptions but a majority of successful captains have also been the best players. In a game where one is looking to exploit the smallest of chinks in the other's armoury, Dhoni can expect to be targetted by Pakistan on Wednesday.

Dhoni's biggest quality is that he is always game for a fight. If he loses this X-factor, there is genuine fear of him losing the winning touch.

His record against Pakistan is good (23 innings, 976 runs, at an average of 54.22) and Wednesday will be the ideal platform to signal a turnaround.