MS Dhoni fits in as the perfect anchorman for Team India

Dhoni scored a half century in the 1st ODI but has been criticised for consuming too many balls.

MS Dhoni
MS Dhoni. (Photo by SAEED KHAN/AFP/Getty Images)

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Indian cricket team’s veteran wicketkeeper-batsman MS Dhoni got to a fifty in the first ODI against Australia in Sydney. The half-century must have brought some relief to the 37-year-old, whose last best score last year was 42* against South Africa in January 2018 in Johannesburg.

Dhoni has been the cynosure of all eyes since quite some time, regarding his form and the manner in which he has been getting the runs. Not too long ago he was criticized for his performance in England, where he was blamed to have not shown any fight in the two matches where India chased.

It was a test of character for the legend against the Aussies. The Indian team was reeling at 4/3 when he walked into the crease and joined Rohit Sharma in the middle. And one saw him take his time to settle in and assert himself. It wasn’t a laboured show this time around. Dhoni did what the situation demanded and played a fine inning of 51. He faced a total of 96 balls.

Drops the anchor

With Rohit playing freely as the match progressed, Dhoni took the guard as an anchor and made sure India did not lose any more wickets. What followed was a 137-run stand for the fourth wicket with Rohit. The asking rate was still in control when Dhoni was finally dismissed in the 37th over.

Unfortunately, the ones who followed him, couldn’t support Rohit and India ended up losing the tie by 34 runs. Australia took a commendable 1-0 lead in the series. Some critics would point out what if Dhoni had scored a 70-ball 50 sort of an innings. This has been the call since a while regarding the veteran.

One shouldn’t forget the hard work MSD put while playing at the SCG on Saturday. The Aussie bowlers did well and the contest was always 50-50. Aussies knew that they had to break the stand and get back in the game once again. And that’s what exactly happened.

Dhoni looked a bit tired and played a lazy shot to be trapped LBW. He could not review the decision. Replays showed that the ball wasn’t in line, having pitched outside the leg-stump despite hitting the stumps. Unfortunately for him, his predecessor Ambati Rayudu had used up the review left for an LBW appeal that looked plumb.

If Dhoni had batted for a little longer, India would have fancied a victory here at the SCG. In terms of confidence, this innings will definitely boost Dhoni and help him in the remaining 12 ODI matches India will be playing ahead of the World Cup starting May 30, 2019.

The struggles

Dhoni is likely to bat at number five for India and will be out in the middle mostly during the middle overs or towards the end depending on the situation. Like on Saturday, there could be an occasion here and there, where he might be coming in much earlier. Dhoni’s role is clear. He is the anchorman of this side and is looked upon as someone to steady things in the middle. We all know that he isn’t the finisher of the yesteryears, who can get those lusty blows at regular intervals. He has been a much calmer entity for quite some time.

Dhoni has struggled at times to find it going, but this innings will serve him well. He needs to spend some more time in the middle and the consistency factor could come back. It is not his hitting but the strike rotation that is a major issue. He is finding the fielders, the singles and doubles which helped him settle early on in his innings have dried up.

He will be a pivotal member of this side until the World Cup. And what India need to sort before that is to find a suitable number six and number seven. These two places are still not sorted. India will have to choose from Dinesh Karthik, Rishabh Pant, Kedar Jadhav and KL Rahul for the number six position. Then comes in the all-rounder. One between Hardik Pandya or Ravindra Jadeja will get a look in the playing XI.

Can this bunch of players be the finishers Team India desperately needs? Dhoni should be let off the burden now. He will win India matches and be there as someone staying right until the end, but the side needs more than Dhoni. That’s where the players in contention come to the scene.

Dhoni adds more than just a batsman. His keeping and influence behind the stumps are at another level. Stop limiting his contribution by the deliveries he is soaking. He just brings soo much more to the table!

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