In Stats: Dhoni Remains Integral to India’s World Cup Preparations

MS Dhoni has found a lot of success in the last 20 innings of his ODI career.

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File photo of MS Dhoni.
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When India take on Australia in the second One-Day International in Kolkata on Thursday, MS Dhoni fans and Indian cricket fans will have yet another occasion to indulge in celebrations, for the former captain will reach a significant milestone in India colours.

India Can Jump to Number One Ranking If They Beat Aus in Kolkata

In the recent ODI series on the tour of Sri Lanka, Dhoni played his 300th ODI – but that tally included three ODIs he had represented Asia XI in, in the Afro-Asia Cup played in 2007.

But, if and when Dhoni steps onto the field, he will be playing his 300th ODI in for India and join an illustrious club of five other players who have represented Team India in 300 or more ODIs.

In Stats: Dhoni Remains Integral to India’s World Cup Preparations
(Photo: Rahul Gupta/The Quint)

Inauspicious Debut to India’s Best

It is many moons ago that Dhoni made his international debut in an ODI against Bangladesh in Chittagong – way back in December 2004. The lad from Ranchi had a forgettable debut; he was run out for a one-ball duck and didn’t have any success behind the stumps.

But notwithstanding that inauspicious debut, he went on to script a place for himself in cricket history in golden letters. Not only did he become one of the world’s best batsmen in the limited-overs format, he also became India’s most successful captain.

He led India to triumphs in all major competitions, including the World T20, the 50-over World Cup, the ICC Champions Trophy and even piloted India to the number-one rank in the ICC rankings in both Tests and ODIs.

In Stats: Dhoni Remains Integral to India’s World Cup Preparations
(Photo: Rahul Gupta/The Quint)

Relinquishing Captaincy & Changed Dynamics

At the start of this year, Dhoni relinquished captaincy of the Indian team. One of the major impacts that decision had was with regards to his place in the Indian team. While captain, he was an automatic selection in the playing XI. But now, not being the captain meant his place in the team was up for questioning.

And so it happened. With the Indian selectors picking players with an eye on the World Cup 2019, there were murmurs if Dhoni should continue to be in the scheme of things. Dhoni was ageing by the day and he wasn’t the same player he used to be earlier in his career.

The flourishes didn’t come frequently, he struggled to rotate the strike – particularly against spin bowlers, and he even failed to finish off games – a trait for which he’d established a reputation.

Dhoni’s Current Form

But which cricketer has remained the same through the course of a career? Especially if a career lasts well over a decade. While keeping the team’s interests and success on the one side, one also had to give Dhoni a certain allowance – for he took part only in the limited-overs formats and there was always going to be a certain degree of rustiness after being away from the game for prolonged periods of time while the Indian team competed in the longer version.

In Stats: Dhoni Remains Integral to India’s World Cup Preparations
(Photo: Rahul Gupta/The Quint)

If one were to look through Dhoni’s entire career, and break down his career into blocks of twenty innings each, then this current block of 20 innings is among his more successful ones. In his last 20 innings, Dhoni has accumulated 853 runs – which includes several match-winning knocks in the series in Sri Lanka and a handy contribution in the first ODI against Australia in Chennai.

Of the 853 runs in these last 20 innings, more than 82 percent of the runs have come in winning causes. In this last block of 20 innings, Dhoni scored 648 in India’s wins – which includes 1 century and 4 half-centuries at an average of 92.57.

In Stats: Dhoni Remains Integral to India’s World Cup Preparations
(Photo: Rahul Gupta/The Quint)

There was a noticeable slump in the previous block of 20 innings; he scored only 673 runs. But to come back strongly and lead India to several wins, illustrates his desire to contribute to Team India’s success.

World Cup 2019 Equation

The main bone of contention, where Dhoni’s participation for the World Cup 2019 is concerned, is his age. He is currently 36 years old and will have turned 38 by the World Cup 2019. Thirty eight is not too old in the context of modern day cricket – certainly not if the athlete in question answers to the name of MS Dhoni, for he is one of the fittest individuals playing the sport.

The first giveaway where dropping fitness levels of cricketers is concerned is their performance in the field; their reflexes slow down which result in them being sloppy on the field, they put down opportunities they would have pouched previously, and they’re not just as sprightly on the field.

If this was the sole parameter used to judge if Dhoni was still fit enough to play international cricket, he certainly passes the test with flying colours. His reflexes are as good as ever – if not better; he still grabs those difficult catches and converts the half-chances in catches.

And one doesn’t even have to talk about his ability to pull off stumpings and run-outs – he is simply the best in the business. Even in the first ODI against Australia, Dhoni pulled off two extremely difficult dismissals: the catch to dismiss David Warner (outside edge off Kuldeep Yadav) and the stumping of Matthew Wade (collecting the ball wide of the stumpings and beating the batsmen by a good couple of inches).

At an event recently, the former Australian captain Michael Clarke was asked if he saw Dhoni playing the WC2019. Clarke’s reply was:

Don’t ask me whether he will play in the 2019 World Cup. He will play in 2023.
Michael Clarke

Whether Michael Clarke actually meant what he said, or if there was a degree of sarcasm in his comment, only he will know. But given what we have seen about and from Dhoni in recent times, he should still be one of the first names on the team list.

Apart from runs with the bat and his sound glove-work, he has plenty to offer: his years of experience to guide the captain and his cool demeanour in pressure situations are absolutely priceless.

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