An overwhelming win over Pakistan may have brought a lot of cheer to the Indian cricket team after an indifferent ‘Australian Summer’, but there are a few grey areas that are yet to be addressed by the side, including skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s poor run with the bat.
Therefore, it was not really surprising to see the captain spending some time with Team Director Ravi Shastri during India’s training session at the St Kilda’s Junction Oval ground on Wednesday.
From a distance, it looked like an animated discussion between the Indian captain and Team Director on the execution of horizontal bat shots — namely the productive pull-shot.
After a session in the nets, Dhoni came walking down to the square leg area, where Shastri was sitting in a chair. The two were seen immersed in a discussion, after which the former India captain stood up and started doing a few shadows showing the exact body movement and balance that should be there while playing the pull-shot.
Shastri’s knowledge about performing in Australian wickets can’t be questioned as he was ‘Man of the Series’ or ‘Champions of Champion’ during the Benson and Hedges series in 1985 and also scored a double century in Sydney during the 1991-92 series.
In the last 10 ODIs that Dhoni has played, he has scored only one half-century (51 not out) against the West Indies and didn’t get to bat in two other matches. In the remaining seven games, Dhoni has crossed the 30-run mark only once while getting out to some good deliveries as well as poor shot selection.
In fact, apart from the 10 official ODIs, Dhoni also failed to fire in the two warm-up games against Australia and Afghanistan where he scored 0 and 10, respectively.
While, he hasn’t got time to build an innings on some occasions, his shot selection has left a lot to be desired. In fact, at 33, he is not getting any younger and probably the reflexes are also getting slower with time. However, the skipper is more than aware about the problems that have crept into his game and he is at least sincere in trying to work his way out of trouble.
Dhoni tried a pull-shot against Pakistan pacer Sohail Khan in Adelaide but spooned it up. He was back and across for the horizontal bat shot but the ball hurried into him. He didn’t react that split second earlier, which he used to do more than often at least a few years back.
Hence, at the Junction Oval nets, Dhoni was seen practising the pull-shots as the likes of Dhawal Kulkarni, Mohammed Shami and even Bhuvneshwar Kumar peppered him with short of length deliveries. He was consistently playing the pull-shots — mostly in front of the square in the arc between square-leg and deep mid-wicket.
Not that he was timing each and every delivery. It was more an exercise to check the weight transfer while rocking back to play the pull-shot. Some of the pull-shots were converted into catches by the net bowers standing around the square. But he continued playing the shot.
Dhoni mostly played the aerial pull-shot rather than the one where it is played like slap with ball not getting an inch above surface.
It’s might be tough to expect Dhoni to perform just the way he used to, but 8280 ODI runs does speak volumes about his quality in this format, where he has been a match-winner. The Indian team now needs ‘Batsman Dhoni’ as much as it needs its ‘Captain Cool’.