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Would MS Dhoni be just as effective had India batted first against Australia?

MS Dhoni's strike-rate of 73.11 was the lowest amongst the top-ten batsmen in the series.

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

For the first time in his ODI career since 2005, MS Dhoni failed to score a single half-century in 2018. The former skipper, in 20 games last year, only managed to put together 275 runs. But, cometh the new year, he started things off on a high with three consecutive half-centuries and won the ‘Player of the Series’ award after a gap of over seven years.

This performance from the wicketkeeper-batsman Down Under got one and all excited. He paced all the three chases in his typical style trying to take the game deep and was successful in getting the team over the line on two occasions. Even though he was on the course of doing it in the first ODI as well, an umpiring blunder didn’t help his cause. But, would the approach Dhoni resorted to pay off had Team India batted first?

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Can MS Dhoni overcome the monster of the Strike Rate?

The dipping strike rate is one of the biggest concerns for Dhoni going ahead. With the new rules and five fielders within the circle, the cricketer has found it tough to rotate the strike as fluently. This has resulted in him consuming a lot of dot balls in the middle-overs, at times increasing the pressure on the batsman at the other end.

His strike-rate of 73.11 was the lowest amongst the top-ten batsmen in the series. He has consumed plenty of dot balls in the series and the opposition often focused on keeping him on strike in the early parts of his innings. 53.12, 101.85, 76.32 were his strike rates in the three games of the series which is not entirely convincing.

Since the 37-year-old had the target in mind, he managed to pace his innings accordingly. Also, he played second fiddle in both the instances where India got over the line. Even though he scored about 25 per cent of the team’s runs in this series, the case could have been completely different had India batted first. While setting a target for the opposition, it is not the best of ideas to take so much time early in the innings.

Especially, given that Dhoni comes in at five, there might be times where he’ll have to score big right from the start. Eating up deliveries in situations like those will not help the team. It will be a very interesting scenario if Dhoni comes into bat early against New Zealand in the first innings.

That’d be a true test of his potential at this stage of his career where he isn’t fully capable of bringing out those big shots at command. The fact that the legendary cricketer should focus more on rotating the strike is essential. He will not be in a situation to play the anchor role every single time and his strike rotation will prove critical then.

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