“I believe MS Dhoni needs to up his ante when it comes to strike rotation in the next matches.” This wasn’t said by an irate Indian cricket fan on social media. This quote has come from India’s greatest batsman Sachin Tendulkar.
Sachin expressed his disappointment with Ms Dhoni’s batting in India’s game against Afghanistan in the ongoing ICC World Cup 2019. Dhoni, who made a scratchy 28 off 52 balls in that game, was seen struggling in rotating the strike and couldn’t up to the ante towards the end stages. This resulted in India scoring a below par 224-8 after batting first, and Virat Kohli’s men narrowly avoided embarrassment against the minnows courtesy their seasoned bowling line up.
Dhoni, though, came in for plenty of flak from all Indian cricket fans after yet another innings where he failed to take the initiative and move things along. While criticisms about Dhoni’s slow approach to batting in ODIs has been a point of contention for over two years now, things have become heated since an ODI World Cup is at stake for India this time. Indian fans fear that Dhoni’s refusal to rotate the strike and move things briskly from the important No.5 position may become a real thorn for the team against better oppositions later in the World Cup.
Twitterati are having a field day after Dhoni’s lackluster performance in that game. “Mahi we love you a lot, but now it’s time for you to take retirement from ODI as well. We no more want another 28 from 52 balls” – posted an Indian cricket fan on Twitter. Noted sports journalist Ayaz Menon too was concerned after Dhoni’s slow knock and wrote this on his Twitter handle – “Undistinguished inning by Dhoni. Struggled against spin, but more importantly, even in rotating rotate strike.”
Dhoni, who generally bats at the No.5 or 6 positions these days, depending on the match situation, has been struggling with his strike-rate for a while now. In 2018, Dhoni had a poor strike-rate of 71.42 in 20 ODIs, and in 2019 he has managed a mediocre strike-rate of only 78.38. These aren’t high numbers for someone who bats down the order. Yes, at times a batsman needs to alter his approach if the top-order has collapsed and if the pitch is slow and difficult. But with Dhoni, one can feel that there is an apparent lack of intent in rotating the strike and in hitting boundaries early on.
If Dhoni comes in around the overs 30-35, he refuses to take any risk and just bats on. He believes he will take it deep and attack only towards the end. Sometimes this approach works. But these days, when Dhoni doesn’t have the form he once used to have, he often fails before the end. This puts pressure on the other batsmen, and at times India ends up scoring a sub-par total if the top-order has been unable.
Perhaps it is time for someone in the team management to talk to MS Dhoni and request him to alter his approach. His stubbornness to not take any risks may well cost India dearly in World Cup 2019. And it will be a disappointing way to go for Dhoni, who is certainly playing his final World Cup.