This is the first instance in the Indian Premier League that MS Dhoni will not feature in the playoffs. Since its inception, the 34-year-old has been one of the league’s leading stars. After a steady stint with the Chennai Super Kings, the shift to Rising Pune Supergiants hasn’t been smooth.
The team is out of contention for the playoffs and is placed at the bottom of the standings.
Adjusting to a new group of players, set up, venues and spate of injuries have definitely not been easy on the skipper.
His bat too has failed to light up the stage. His 22-ball, eight-run knock against Kolkata Knight Riders underscored his grim season.
In the lead-up to the World Twenty20, Dhoni was in similar form. The marquee event saw glimpses of his finishing capabilities, but he never really dominated or led the batting.
The poor form has continued in the IPL. In the previous game against KKR, Dhoni’s struggles came to the fore. He walked in with Pune in trouble at 74 for four. KKR skipper Gautam Gambhir packed fielders around the batsman to pile on the pressure.
A silly point, two slips and a short leg welcomed Dhoni to the crease. The ploy worked and he failed to find his footing.
“Since so many years we’re just used to seeing Dhoni come out and finish the innings, that’s why we call him a finisher. But like anybody else in cricket, there are times when things happen and things don’t happen. Not necessarily that a person is not trying,” said Pune assistant coach Hrishikesh Kanitkar.
Head coach Stephen Fleming too has come out in defence, attributing the disappointing season to a combination of external factors.
“We lost four of our first-choice overseas players... So it’s five from our first-choice team. That’s unusual. I’ve never seen that happen before,” Fleming had said.
With the international stars missing, Pune have had to depend on Ajinkya Rahane up the order. With Dhoni the next best bankable batsman, his knocks could have given Pune some hope, however that has not been the case.
On Tuesday, they face Delhi Daredevils, who are targetting a place in the playoffs. Delhi have proved formidable this season, both with bat and ball. Pune will look to their skipper for inspiration with nothing much to play for.