The Dhoni conundrum – to play or not to play

When Rohit Sharma walked back to the heritage grade pavilion of the historic Brabourne Stadium after scoring a magnificent 162, the whole of India was excited to observe the proceedings of the remaining 37 balls. Those 37 balls would help the two divided factions of the nation in vindicating their stand about one of India’s legendary cricketers, MS Dhoni. However, Dhoni went back to the pavilion with a 23 from 15 balls. Neither a trail-blazing knock nor a dull ball-eating one. The discussion remains open, the conundrum continues.

Leading into the fourth ODI at Mumbai, India had a tough a selection crisis on its hands. Kedar Jadhav, India’s golden arm in recent times, had to make his comeback into the side. Jadhav’s inclusion meant dropping either Rishabh Pant or MS Dhoni. The selectors sided with Pant when the same dilemma arose in the T20I squad but here in the ODIs; they stuck with Dhoni. Will they continue doing so till the World Cup 2019 arrives remains the question.

MS Dhoni’s record in the 50-over format is stellar. He has 10,000-plus runs in ODIs and averages more than fifty. While the overall record makes him one of the greats of the format, his recent outings show why there is so much criticism about his continued stay in the team. In the year 2018, when Dhoni has been asked to bat at number four as well, he averages only 25. His strike rate of 71.42 for the year 2018 is his career-worst.

It is, in fact, Dhoni’s form that has played a role in not allowing India to solve the long-standing puzzle of their middle order. Batting at six, the Ranchi marauder is not the force he used to be. He has struck only two sixes in 2018 ODIs. The super finisher may still be immensely fit, but he is struggling to clear the ropes in the death overs. If MSD is promoted to the fourth positionhe bats too slow and takes away the momentum. If he comes out in the death overs, the lack of boundaries allows the opposition to sneak back into the game.

While the batting touch that was momentarily regained in the IPL 2018 seems to be lost again, there are certain factors in which MS Dhoni is untouched in the world. At this moment, no wicketkeeper in the world can affect a stumping faster than Dhoni. Once the batsman misses the ball he stepped out to; he knows there is no way he can survive against the supersonic gloves of MSD.

Dhoni is an astute reader of the game, and with his tactical nous, he is of incredible help to captain Virat Kohli. The wicketkeeper is a master of reading the batsman, and he adjusts the field placements accordingly. Dhoni’s skill with the use of DRS is well-known, and it has the potential of making a tremendous impact on the game.

Glancing ahead to the World Cup, the Indian batting lineup up to number five looks settled with RohitDhawanKohliRayudu and Jadhav. While MS Dhoni does contribute amazingly with the gloves, his batting at number six will be far more significant. It will be increasingly hard for the selectors to keep Rishabh Pant out of the ODI side if he bats well in the upcoming T20I assignments.

Tomorrow’s fifth ODI allows one last chance this year for MS Dhoni to prove his batting capabilities. He will then be a spectator until the ODIs in Australia arrive. It is tomorrow that Dhoni must bring his best else the conundrum will continue.



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