Is MS Dhoni experimenting too much with batting order?
Experimentation is a good thing. But, chaos as was evident with Indian batting order in the first three matches, could be harmful. So what happened to Indian team these days? The batting order has been changing almost every match which has been affecting India’s fortune in the series against South Africa.
India started the ODI series losing at Kanpur. Ajinkya Rahane’s inclusion in the team as a no. 3 batsman surprised everyone as at no.3 Virat Kohli generally bats. On the eve of the match MS Dhoni said he was finding difficult to find a place for Rahane in the team. But, then in the very next morning Rahane was included in the team India. It indeed raised eyebrows as the development raised a question about the team selection. The answer was ditched after Rahane scored 60. Captain MS Dhoni explained the reason to demote Virat Kohli in the batting order. India lost the match as the middle order collapsed, Virat Kohli’s lean patch continued. Suresh Raina lost his touch.
In the next match at Indore, Indian top order collapsed like a pack of cards. Captain MS Dhoni, being the last recognised batsman at the crease built some small but important partnership with the lower order that helped India to set a target of 248 for South Africa. MS Dhoni scored unbeaten 92. India won the match by 22 as bowlers and fielders put a remarkable performance in the field. India levelled the series.
However, once again in Rajkot, India failed as Virat Kohli, who reverted to his no. 3 position and MS Dhoni, who promoted himself at no. 4 built an 80 run partnership playing almost 18 overs of the innings. Though, India could still chase the target if Raina did not fail. Sunil Gavaskar said, “Raina’s legs were moving, under pressure he was taking ones and twos but when he tried to play a big shot on the wrong ball he got out”.
The legendary Indian cricketer while giving an interview to NDTV said, “one of the reasons behind India’s loss in the third ODI was not getting a good start from the openers”. “Shikhar Dhawan looked ‘tired’ and sluggish so selectors should give him rest and promote Rahane to the opening slot.”
Gavaskar also bats for Yuvraj Singh’s return in the team. He said, “India also needs to bring Yuvraj back in the squad because the in-form batsman will provide a depth in the batting order and will bowl a few overs in the middle of the match”.
So, Along with Yuvraj selection of either Ambati Rayudu or Gurkeerat Singh could make a balanced team for the fourth ODI, where India must have to win the match to keep their hope alive in the series for the fifth and final ODI in Mumbai before the Test series starts.
To bring old bloke like Yuvraj Singh and new pal Gurkeerat Singh in the XI will solve the problem of a willy-nilly batting order. If Rahane opens with Rohit then Virat will bat at no. 3. Raina can bat at no. 4. Meanwhile, Dhoni and Yuvraj can add extra solidity in the middle order.
But, Indian selectors made the only change in the bowling department leaving the problem of batting order unsolved. Sreenath Aravind, who played the only T20 in Dharmasala, replaced Umesh Yadav. However, that did not sort out Dhoni’s headache over choosing the playing XI.
So, it is still unclear where should Rahane bat if he plays the next two ODIs. Cricket pundits were urging Dhoni to bat at no. 4 before the series starts, but as it is evident the problem of India’s middle order exposed. So MS Dhoni decided to bat at no. 6. The ODI team selection lacks the vision as India’s problem with batting order is yet to be fixed. It is also unclear who is taking the call on playing XI and batting order.
In the post match interview, MS Dhoni expressed his helplessness. “We are looking for batsmen to play at Nos 5, 6 and 7. Till they play there, we won’t know who is a good bet over there. And we are looking to give chances as well so it’s a tricky one,” Dhoni said at the post-match presentation ceremony.
“Jinx (Ajinkya Rahane) batted well at No 3, but Virat couldn’t score, this is something we will have to look at,” Dhoni said.
“I thought 270 was a par score, the wicket kept getting lower and slower and the dew didn’t help us out. It became a bit two-paced and become difficult to play the big shot. I thought our bowlers did well, maybe a bit more dew would have made it difficult. They (South Africa) batted when the wicket was at its best and they also couldn’t find runs at the death,” the skipper added.