“At the moment MS Dhoni does not require a push, but a hand on the shoulders.” These words said by Harsha Bhogle after India’s ODI series loss to Bangladesh are completely apt even after the first ODI against South Africa in Kanpur. As India made a mess of a straightforward run chase, a section of cricket fans in India were busy cursing MS Dhoni for India’s embarrassing debacle. But does MS Dhoni, the man who has given his everything for the betterment of Indian cricket deserve such a harsh treatment? Should the fans be more patient with MS Dhoni, who undoubtedly is the greatest finisher of the game?
Judging by Dhoni’s contribution to India cricket and his abilities, it is high time that Indian fans back and support him rather than making him an easy scapegoat behind all the woes in the team. A couple of days ago, former India pacer Ajit Agarkar went on to say that Dhoni could well go on to become a “liability” for the ODI side. Agarkar surely seems to be ostracizing the fact that even in his worst phase as a cricketer, Dhoni is India’s fourth highest run-getter in 2015. From the average front, Dhoni’s average is second only to Rohit Sharma, while his strike rate stands at 84.
It is agonizingly true that MS Dhoni is no longer the unstoppable force he was a couple of years ago. It is also true to assert the fact that Dhoni at the moment is playing with just 20% of his abilities. It was heartbreaking to see MS Dhoni struggle in the first ODI at Kanpur against the pace of Kagiso Rabada. Despite that, Dhoni tried everything as he ran like a wild hare in order to convert the one’s into two’s and get India closer to the mark. To top that, Dhoni was also struggling miserably from stomach cramps, but he overcame that physical pain, just for the sake of his team. If a player values the outcome of his team to such a colossal extent, then he just does not deserve to be dumped or cursed by the fans.
The Indian limited-overs captain for more than half a decade has played the finisher’s role with tremendous ease and grace. Dhoni has numerously finished some steep games for India successfully. Now that his abilities to finish the game have taken a hit, it’s time to accommodate him in a position more suited for him. That currently would be to provide Dhoni a platform where he can bat at number 4. Batting two down would mean that Dhoni would have the time to adjust and make himself at ease. As Dhoni is also a great strike rotator, India will keep scoring at a healthy rate even in the middle overs, which constitute a crucial juncture in ODI’s. Dhoni batting at number 4 currently will surely be the best thing for India.
From the statistical front as well the Jharkhand lad deserves to be given a rope. In 2015, Dhoni’s aggregate total is 459 runs at an average of 41.72, while striking 84.22 runs per 100 deliveries. These are surely not dismal numbers, but they don’t’ justify Dhoni. The 34-year-old has made such a reputation for him that people expect him to score at a strike rate in excess of 125 in every innings. A similar phase occurred in Sachin Tendulkar’s career, when he used to score 40-60 runs in a test innings, but still his fans were not happy with him, only because of his ability to score more. Dhoni at the moment is going through a similar patch, as the expectations of everyone from him are sky high.
Blaming Dhoni alone for the misery of the Indian ODI team in 2015 is completely senseless. Firstly, the death bowling is letting him terribly down. Even if the bowlers are bowling to a set AB De Villiers, they are not expected to concede 109 runs in the last 10 overs with five fielders outside the circle. Secondly, Virat Kohli, who is the backbone of any Indian run chase, himself is in the worst ODI form of his life in 2015. Kohli is now without a half-century in 11 consecutive innings. Kohli’s failure adds excess burden on Dhoni and the other batsmen to perform, which, unfortunately, is taking a heavy toll.
Due to some batsmen failing, the added pressure on MS Dhoni is simply too much. A classic example of that is the 2015 World Cup semi-final against Australia, when Dhoni stood as the lone warrior for India, scoring 65. Dhoni batted at number 4 against Bangladesh in the third ODI and did really well as he rotated the strike and accelerated towards the end.
The message is crystal clear indeed. It is time for Indian fans to be patient with MS Dhoni and give him some time to settle in his new number 4 role, as the anchor and then the eventual accelerator. Knowing the fighter MS Dhoni is, he soon will be back to his best.