Dhoni eager to regain batting touch as India look to dominate NZ in 2nd ODI | cricket | Hindustan Times
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Dhoni eager to regain batting touch as India look to dominate NZ in 2nd ODI

It may be just another ODI in a bilateral series, but there is a lot at stake for Dhoni, who hasn’t delivered with the bat for sometime now.

cricket Updated: Oct 19, 2016 15:18 IST
MS Dhoni,Virat Kohli,Kane Williamson
Dhoni arrives to bat in the nets during a training session ahead of the match.(AFP)

India’s limited-overs captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni will be eager to regain his golden touch when India take on New Zealand in the second ODI of the five-match series in New Delhi on Thursday.

It may be just another ODI in a bilateral series, but there is a lot at stake for Dhoni, who has been under pressure after Test skipper Virat Kohli led India to the number one ranking following a 3-0 whitewash of the Black Caps.

With India up 1-0, Dhoni and his men would like to reassert themselves at the Feroz Shah Kotla stadium in order to consolidate their lead.

It is expected that Dhoni will not tinker much with the playing XI from the last game with Suresh Raina, who missed the opening match, being ruled out of the second ODI as well after failing to recover from a bout of viral fever.

On the face of it, there is no danger to Dhoni’s captaincy since the team is still winning. But if one digs deeper, Virat has slowly and surely been the man everyone is looking to as the leader of the limited-overs side as well.

A cleansweep in the Test series with a career-best double hundred, followed by an effortless unbeaten 85 in the first ODI, Kohli has showed his ability to lead from the front.

For Dhoni, the challenge is to show the world he is far from being dubbed as a spent force in limited overs.

Read | To stay relevant, Dhoni’s challenge is to redefine his batting role

Dhoni is still supremely fit and agile behind the stumps. His captaincy acumen cannot be questioned. Testimony to that is his decision to have Hardik Pandya open the bowling and Kedar Jadhav filling in the role of a part time offspinner in the first ODI.

But the runs aren’t exactly coming from his bat. The big hits, a hallmark of his, aren’t being executed with perfection.

He was run out for 21 in the last game and although that didn’t affect the outcome of the match in any way, the skipper knows only too well that he has to play a few impact innings in the coming weeks.

No wonder Dhoni’s intensity while batting at Kotla nets during an optional session was there to be seen. For the record, he needs another 61 runs to complete 9000 ODI runs. But there must be a lingering shadow of Virat standing right behind him.

From a team perspective, the Indians have settled into a nice rhythm. The last match was a cakewalk. Umesh Yadav, Pandya, Mishra and Jadhav all chipped in with vital breakthroughs. Axar Patel and Jasprit Bumrah didn’t get wickets but executed their respective roles to perfection.

Jadhav has now given Dhoni an option as fifth bowler, rolling his arm over to deliver part-time offbreaks. With no Raina in the middle order, Jadhav will look to make his case stronger in case he gets to bat for a considerable amount of time.

Ajinkya Rahane had a decent start in the first game scoring 34 at nearly a run a ball while Rohit Sharma had a forgettable outing.

While Kohli and Dhoni are certainties in the XI, big runs are expected of Manish Pandey as there are other contenders in that middle order.

For New Zealand, the series has gone from bad to worse save a few individual performances. The only saving grace for them has been opener Tom Latham with his consistency. The Kiwis will be hoping skipper Williamson can snap his poor run of form while spin twins Mitchell Santner and lsh Sodhi have found how hard it is to bowl on flat subcontinental tracks.