As Team India gears up for the ICC World Cup 2019, the biggest concern for the team management is regarding its middle-order. The No.4 and No.5 position has been a headache for the team for a while now. And in a tournament like the World Cup, the team would need a stable and consistent player in those slots.
While most of the attention has been on India’s No.4 conundrum, the No.5 position hasn’t been talked about much but is equally important. Many think that Mahendra Singh Dhoni is ideally suited for this position. Former Indian batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar to feels the same.
“My personal opinion is Dhoni should be batting five. I still don’t know what the team combination would be, but if you are going [with] Rohit and Shikhar as openers, to Virat [Kohli] at No. 3 and whoever at No. 4, then Dhoni could be No. 5. Then Hardik Pandya, an explosive player, follows them. That way the experienced batsmen are well spaced out and Dhoni can stretch the game towards the end where he can be explosive along with Hardik,” Tendulkar was quoted as saying to ESPN Cricinfo.
So will using MS Dhoni at five be beneficial for India? He has been criticized in the recent past for consuming too many balls and being unable to rotate the strike. But the numbers tell a different story. It is from this position where Dhoni has had the second most successful in terms of runs scored. Dhoni has featured in 79 innings from the 5th position and scored 3079 runs in them at a terrific average of 52.18 with four hundred and 18 fifties. His strike rate in this position is a healthy 86.39. In 2019 alone, Dhoni has smashed three fifties from this position in just six innings.
These are fantastic numbers and prove that Dhoni is the best bet the current Indian team has at the No.5 slot. Dhoni doesn’t have the hitting prowess he once used to have. But he doesn’t need to be savage hitter anymore. At No.5 he can hold the innings, move along the pace and attack whenever the opportunity arrives. A veteran of 341 matches and 10,500 runs, Dhoni’s experience here would be so crucial to the batting unit which still is a little raw.
The No.5 position may well turn out to be the most crucial one for India’s fortunes in the World Cup. Any experimentation might be fraught with risk. Dhoni provides stability and will never give away his wicket to rash strokes. Dhoni at No.5 could be the impetus to give the team a strong middle and an electric finish.
One should also remember that this is likely to be MS Dhoni’s last ODI tournament and indeed the previous World Cup. He has won India many matches and led the team to several memorable victories. He will certainly give it his all in the upcoming World Cup to go out with one last hurrah. It is up to the team management now to use him judiciously.