MS Dhoni dropped from the T20I squad against Windies and Australia may come as a big surprise to many. We seek to understand everything behind this decision.
MS Dhoni is no stranger to this, and has often been the subject of acute criticism over his career. Keeping in character with his captaincy, MS Dhoni, although immensely successful, cuts a polarizing figure in Indian cricket at the moment.
Jumping straight into the facts, MS Dhoni’s strike rate in T20Is is a scant 127 for someone with his reputation. With just 2 half-centuries in 80 innings, the international T20 stage is one Dhoni has not lit up yet. With his services as captain ceasing too after Kohli taking the reins, these stats disenchant. The future is at our doorstep with Rishabh Pant and Dinesh Karthik strongly making ripples. T20 cricket has redefined wicket keeping with part timers KL Rahul, Kedar Jadhav and Robin Uthappa donning the gloves, giving their franchise a major strategic boost. It is a high risk-yield move which India can look at.
Dhoni’s evolution from an axe wielding aggressor to a cultured, yet unconventional batsman, has resulted in great ODI yields, but has tarnished his reputation as a finisher. This essentially means he’s slotted at number 4 or 5, a position contested by Manish Pandey and Kedhar Jadhav amongst others. In 2016, he played 16 innings and was outscored by 34 other players who had played lesser or the equal amount of innings as him. Although he struck at a rate of 149, the period was lean for Dhoni.
The IPL numbers show a different picture. Striking at an impressive 138.2, the former Indian skipper has been quite prolific.The IPL 2018 winning skipper compiled his personal best of 455 runs as well. What works in favor of Dhoni’s inclusion in the side is his stellar average. Averaging around 37 in all T20s, he is a consistent run scorer for the side. He has the second highest average for wicketkeeping, only behind Brendan McCullum, the highest run scorer in the history of T20Is,who did not keep wickets towards the end of his career.
His critics have been quick to pounce and claim his averages are a result of the high number of unbeaten knocks someone of his position plays. In 2016, MS Dhoni had remained not out in 11 of the 16 encounters,6 innings out of 12 in 2017 and 2 out of 5 in 2018. This gives some base to their claims.
It also wouldn’t be fair if we looked at the alternatives without factoring in a key factor- skills behind the sticks. Dhoni’s unconventional style makes him very effective. With both quick hands and quick instincts, there is no doubt left that Dhoni belongs behind the sticks. His prior experience as captain helps in fine tuning the field to execute the plans of his skipper, as he has the best view. Wicket keepers are also entrusted with an increasingly difficult task, namely, calling the DRS. And MS Dhoni’s calls are synonymous with dismissals as he is the best in the business when it comes to DRS.
It is no secret that MS Dhoni has reached the end of his explosive career. The 2019 mega event in England is perhaps the ultimate grail for this legend and all his efforts are steered towards it. There is no denying the fact that whispers of dropping the shortest format have found its way into his ears. The struggle in the middle is there for everyone to see, and the numbers don’t stand in support of the veteran skipper. The cricket nerd in me says it’s time to hang the boots in T20s, and yet somewhere deep within is the fan who wants him to push on. But there is a certain sense of uncertainty with Dhoni, both on and off the field. Whatever decision the legendary ‘number 7’ comes up with can be fathomed only by him.
The selection committee has categorically stated that this is not the end of MS Dhoni in T20. The road ahead however doesn’t seem smooth with Pant and DK breathing up his neck . Whatever the strategy, whatever the policy,this is not the way MS Dhoni should go. The world’s first T20 World Cup winning skipper should go in one final hurrah.