Dhoni’s batting abilities are such that he should bat high up the order……
After an ordinary performance in their opening encounter, which they still won by a whisker, India have been unstoppable in the Asia Cup so far. After a nail-biting encounter against Hong Kong, India have beaten Pakistan and Bangladesh one-sidedly to give a testament of their supremacy in this format. Their bowlers have found the rhythm and restricted the sides to modest totals while the batting has never been a problem. Despite Virat Kohli’s absence, India’s batting has been up to the mark. Of course, that firepower is not there, but they’ve done well so far and are yet to lose a game.
India are traditionally acknowledged to have a powerful batting line-up, they are a power-house with some star players in the line-up. There hasn’t been a dearth of impactful batsmen and have always had an aura of fine players to pick from. However, the only difficulty that India have been facing in the recent times has been with their vulnerable middle-order. They are yet to be settled and the No. 4 slot has been a headache for a very long time now. To put things into numbers perspective, India have experimented with 11 players at No. 4 slot since the last World Cup and 10 is last 3 years.
10 players in last 3 years? Well, that is clearly an indication that they have failed to find a reliable batsman at the said position for a very long time now. This hasn’t hurt India so far as their top-order has been spilling fire and have scored runs at will. They average a staggering 60.33 since the 2015 World Cup and are arguably the best top-three in shorter formats in contemporary cricket.
Talking about the No. 4 position, India should give MS Dhoni a longer rope at the said position. Against Bangladesh, India didn’t have a big total to chase. Their bowlers were right on the money and India had the liberty to tinker with their batting. Once again, their openers got off to a brisk start, setting the stage for a successful run-chase. Shikhar Dhawan departed for 40 after which, Ambati Rayudu was undone for 13. The target was still 68 runs away when surprisingly MS Dhoni took guard at 4. He did manage to score 33 off 37 deliveries, but gifted his wicket away while being on the brink of victory. Dhoni floundered while attempting to finish things in style; he might have just scored 33, but there are a lot of positives for India and him from this innings.
For a very long time now, Dhoni’s strike-rate has been questionable in the recent times. Runs have been coming consistently, but Dhoni has failed to get it at a quick pace, which might create a problem at 6 or 7. In this innings, Dhoni looked quite comfortable right from the outset and didn’t have any problem with the strike-rate whatsoever. He scored runs at a good pace and should be given a longer rope at the said position. Also, batting higher up the order means more time to get used to the conditions and place the innings accordingly, which Dhoni has been more often lately.
Dhoni is a man with plethora of experience; he knows the rare art of constructing an innings. In saying so, he is also one of the hard hitters of the cricket ball in world cricket and could change gears at any time, but No. 4 is what he should be looking at right now. India’s top-order has fired so far, but in matches where they don’t, Dhoni would be an ideal candidate to do the repair work and rescue the innings.
Former Indian bowler Zaheer Khan also opined that Dhoni should be the one batting at 4 for India. In a report from sports.ndtv.com, Zaheer, a Star Sports Select dug out expert, was quoted saying, “At No. 4, I do feel someone like MS Dhoni needs to give a go-ahead because keeping the World Cup in mind, it’s a very crucial position to soak in pressure and play according to the situation. So far, the Indian team has been winning matches when they have had a great start, but in situations where they do not get a good start, the experience is required to control the situation.”
While batting higher up the order, Dhoni could get the required time to settle down and place his innings. There won’t be much of a hurry at 4 as it is at 6 or 7. Dhoni could be the answer to India’s No. 4 woes. Once Kohli is back in the line-up, India will certainly have a dominating top-order, but Dhoni’s presence at 4 will provide that stability and experience. Keeping the World Cup in mind, India would be more than happy to have an established and experienced hand at 4. The number 5 and 6 position can revolve around Kedar Jadhav, Dinesh Karthik, KL Rahul or even Manish Pandey.
Talking about numbers, Dhoni has been prolific while batting at 4 or 5 in ODIs. He averages 54.91 in 28 games and 52.93 in 109 games while batting at 4 and 5 respectively. Although his recent numbers at the said position might be contradictory, but looking at India’s middle-order riddle, Dhoni looks the best outfit at the moment.