Why MS Dhoni cannot be dropped from Indian cricket team - His super stats
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Why MS Dhoni cannot be dropped from Indian cricket team - His super stats

Former Indian cricket team skipper MS Dhoni’s 65 against Sri Lanka in Dharamsala was his sixth half-century this year, in which he has averaged 65.08. Rohit Sharma reiterates Virat Kohli’s stand that he will always remain in the team’s plans.

india vs sri lanka 2017 Updated: Dec 12, 2017 08:34 IST
Abhishek Paul
Abhishek Paul
Hindustan Times, Dharamsala
MS Dhoni,Rohit Sharma,Virat Kohli
Former Indian cricket team skipper MS Dhoni’s average in ODIs this year has been 65.08, much better than his career average of 51.78.(BCCI )

It was the 13th over and MS Dhoni was already in the middle. India, tottering at 16/4, needed its senior-most player to conjure up something special against Sri Lanka in seaming conditions here. But before he could go past 1, the hosts had lost two more wickets. (INDIA vs SRI LANKA FULL COVERAGE)

Dhoni had faced only three balls till then and now had tail-enders for company. Not the ideal situation but not unfamiliar for the former India captain either.

Be it his 79 in Chennai against Australia, or his unbeaten 45 at Pallekele against Sri lanka, Dhoni in his latest avatar has often been seen digging deep to guide the younger lot in pressure situations. But in Dharamsala it was different.

(Read | How MS Dhoni’s brain works like magic on a cricket field)

The moving ball from the Sri Lankans pacers had posed some serious questions on the preparedness of Indians for the upcoming South Africa tour.

Dhoni’s crucial stands

Batting in this situation, with India staring at a double-digit total, Dhoni strung three crucial stands with the No. 9, 10 and 11 batsmen. With Kuldeep Yadav he shared 41 runs, with Jasprit Bumrah he shared 17 and with Yuzvendra Chahal 25.

In those three stands, Dhoni alone scored 64 runs as India managed to put up a total of 112 runs. Of those 64, 52 runs came with the help of 10 fours and two sixes.

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He kept shielding the last three batsmen, scoring mostly with big hits and often taking a single off the last ball of an over to keep strike. And when the other batsmen did get strike, he walked up to them after almost every ball to talk to them.

It was expected of a senior pro like him and he did not fail to deliver when seven other Indian batsmen fell for single digit scores.

Dhoni showed his prowess in taking DRS too when Bumrah was given leg-before off Sachithra Pathirana in 33rd over. Thanks to the World Cup-winning captain’s judgment, the decision was reversed.

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Though India could not spring a miracle to defend the low total, Dhoni’s effort, which brought up his 67th half-century, did not go unnoticed.

“He has been at that situation many a times and he has proved himself again and again. I never understood there was even a talk of him, before this game, of (he) being in our plans or not. Once he gets runs and suddenly the whole conversation changes,” Rohit Sharma, India’s stand-in captain in Virat Kohli’s absence, said after the match.

Middle-order question

At a time when India are still searching for a settled middle-order, Dhoni’s importance seems to have been magnified.

(Read | Overconfidence to experiment led to Indian cricket team’s shock loss in Dharamsala)

With an eye on nurturing a back-up for Dhoni, keeping the 2019 ICC World Cup in mind, there have been calls about giving younger wicketkeepers a chance to get battle-ready. But as the middle-order still searches for the right touch, going for that decision may be tough for the team management.

Rohit summed it up aptly. “He has been the pillar of this team for many years now and will continue to be so. He showed us again how to bat in that situation. I wish one of our top order batsmen was batting, so that we could get a decent total,” he said.

Dhoni’s average this year has been 65.08, much better than his career average of 51.78. The numbers are astounding but the way he has molded his finisher’s role to that of a rescuer’s has made experimentation in his slot even more difficult.

First Published: Dec 12, 2017 08:19 IST