July, 9. 2019. In the midst of a boisterous atmosphere at the famed Old Trafford Cricket Ground when the entire fraternity had its eyes peeled on the ICC World Cup semi-final between India and New Zealand, there was one moment where the jam-packed stadium was stunned to pin-drop silence.
And that was when a gritty, rear-guard yet unpolished 50 off 72 balls from one of the finest, MS Dhoni, came to an imprudent end. Since then, we have not seen the enigma that is Dhoni, on the cricket pitch.
To fuel the frequency of shockwaves following his absence from the scheme of things in the sub-continent, the veteran was not even a part of the central contract list announced by BCCI. There are ups and downs in cricket, but this was perhaps the worst trough sustained by the master after being a retainer of ₹5 Cr in the previous year.
Nevertheless, the gentleman’s game may continue to surprise us just as it has been doing for ages. Dhoni has scripted various fairytales over the last 15 years or so, and a preposterous comeback may be on the cards. Although they have secured series wins against Bangladesh and West Indies recently, Virat Kohli’s exchanges also had their blips against the aforementioned opponents in the shortest version of the game.
On that note, we analyze three reasons why India need their former skipper in the highly anticipated – and most important at present – the T20 World Cup.
3. Dhoni is an expert decision-maker on the pitch
Amid all the talk over his strike rotation and failure to accelerate at will besides his fitness too, there’s no denying that serial winner MS Dhoni is one of the, if not the sharpest mind in the game. Firstly, he is a perfect figure to have in the dressing room as well as behind the stumps. Dhoni’s collectedness, sense of awareness and mindful suggestions have shaped Indian cricket in many ways.
Earlier, a BCCI official even accepted that talismanic skipper Kohli notes many recommendations from the 38-year-old. He conceded:
“The thing is that when you have someone like Dhoni around, you can be yourself. Dhoni helps Kohli make decisions and also guides the bowlers like you would have seen time and again. Youngsters like Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal feel at home when they have Dhoni guiding them from behind the wicket. That is why Dhoni is such an integral member of the Indian ODI set-up.Kohli can also focus on his batting when Dhoni is around.”
The wicketkeeper is a father figure to bowlers, having brought out the best of the likes of Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Mohit Sharma, Harbhajan Singh and more lately, Kuldeep Yadav and Deepak Chahar.
Another staggeringly impressive and often jaw-dropping aspect in the legend’s armory is the several dimensions he owns. Dhoni’s in-game management is absolutely phenomenal, just as his adaptability and ability to read the game. He just knows when to play the trump cards. Such a brand of unconventional improvisations have not only built unforgettable memories for the world, but also translated into three IPL trophies and a T20 World Cup crown.
2. Dhoni still owns quality at the back-end of the innings
A sorrowful half-century against the Kiwis out of context is still fresh in the minds of purists who have pinned the finisher in Dhoni down. But, his standards are held so high that despite a strike rate of 91.33 in his last five ODI innings, he is regarded as a ‘finished’ commodity.
And not so long ago, the swashbuckling willow-wielder was smoking them right out of the park in the IPL whilst carrying an under-fire Chennai Super Kings side, who stormed to the final courtesy of their bowling performances.
He recorded 416 runs in the premier T20 event at a ballistic average of 83.2 and a healthy scoring rate of 134.62. He may have donned the Indian blue in the T20 version way back in February 2019, but Dhoni still possesses massive quality during the business end of an innings.
It’s not just about muscle and the long levers that come to the fore when he’s on song, but also the intelligence to knock the ball into gaps and pluck twos and even threes. It’s about targeting the right bowlers, playing to the weakness of the opposition and then wreaking havoc at will.
1. Dhoni is suited to the Australian wickets
And his burgeoning capacity to convert ones to twos and twos to threes leads us to the importance of the same in Australian grounds. Be it the Optus stadium or Melbourne Cricket Ground, the continent-nation is stacked with huge grounds where taking non-boundary runs are quintessential.
Dhoni is quite the man to do so, and not to mention, he is a brilliant player of the short ball – a key weapon used against many Indian batsmen. He’s got stunning averages of 47.8 and 48 in ODIs and T20s respectively, in Australia.
And lastly, there’s no substitute to experience. Dhoni has lifted the T20 World Cup earlier, he has thumped Australia in their own backyard and most importantly, he knows the wickets and the label of cricket Down Under. No other wicketkeeper probably judges the pace, bounce, and trickery of the Australian pitches better than him.
India may look for a long-term replacement in someone such as Rishabh Pant, but should they want to lift the coveted trophy later this year, their main man could be the X-Factor that spearheads them to the crown they have been longing for.
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