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ICC World Cup 2019: Gloves with Army insignia or not, MS Dhoni is still India’s Key man

India would hope their World Cup former skipper can once prove his class against Australia in the ICC World Cup encounter on Friday at The Oval.

cricket Updated: Jun 09, 2019 08:37 IST
Sanjjeev Samyal
Sanjjeev Samyal
Mumbai
ICC World Cup 2019,India vs Australia,India vs Australia World Cup 2019
Cricket - ICC Cricket World Cup - India Nets - The Oval, London, Britain - June 8, 2019 India's MS Dhoni during nets(Action Images via Reuters)

At the Oval on Sunday, all eyes will be on MS Dhoni when India meet Australia. The cameras will be zooming in on his gloves to look for the ‘badge’; his body language will be studied for clues—has the controversy with the insignia lifted him or subdued him? Then finally, the performance. Because a transformed Dhoni has been sensational against Australia in the recent past. With the bat, his average against Australia since 2018 is a towering 92, partly because the Aussies managed to get him out in only 3 of the six innings he has played in that period.

But batting is not the only reason; there is his lightning work behind the stumps, and most importantly, the part he plays in getting the best out of India’s spin attack. (Full Coverage of ICC World Cup 2019)

The Australian team is on a high. They have been on a long unbeaten run and have started the World Cup impressively, but in the last two One-day series against India, played this year, Australia captain Aaron Finch has seen the difference Dhoni can make to the fortunes of the Indian team.

In the one-day series in Australia, played in January, Dhoni had walked away with the man of the series award with three successive half-centuries (51, 55 not out and 87 not out).

Behind the wicket

When the two sides met in March in India for a five-match series, Dhoni was rested for the 4th ODI at Mohali. India immediately felt the absence of his glovework. Replacement keeper Rishabh Pant missed a couple of chances in the 44th over and it cost India the game. Yuzvendra Chahal bowled one down the leg-side and Pant failed to collect it as Ashton Turner survived. Turner and he took the match away with an unbeaten 84 (43 balls) as India failed to defend a total of 358 for nine. That game perhaps also cost Pant his World Cup berth.

Dhoni’s guidance to the bowlers, his field-setting acumen, which can sometime feel like a game of rapid chess, was also sorely missed.

In the Mohali game, Chahal went for 80 runs in 10 overs and Kuldeep Yadav conceded 64 off 10 overs for one wicket. In the first two games which India had won, Yadav had figures of 10-0-46-2 and 10-0-54-3.

One of the key reasons for India’s recent success has been Yadav and Chahal’s ability to pick wickets in the middle overs. At the World Cup, this strategic partnership between Dhoni and the two spinners is back, and the outcome was there to see in their opener against South Africa: Chahal was the standout performer with four wickets while Yadav also showed signs of rediscovering his rhythm with returns of 10-0-46-1.

The former India skipper has sounded an early warning at the World Cup with a belligerent hundred in the warm-up game against Bangladesh and a valuable contribution of 34 in the chase against South Africa. Whether India bat first or are made to chase, what Dhoni does with the bat may make all the difference.

Will the glove controversy have any effect on him?

Those who have seen him over the years, vouch that the standout feature of Dhoni’s career has always been how well he handles pressure—his game remains unaffected by it. The Indian supporters will be counting on that.

First Published: Jun 09, 2019 08:27 IST