In Stats: Is No 6 the Ideal Batting Spot for MS Dhoni?

A look at MS Dhoni’s stats in T20 cricket since January 2016.

3 min read
Of late, questions have been raised about MS Dhoni’s place in the Indian team.

“MS Dhoni's strike rate was 80. That's not good enough when India were chasing a mammoth total,” said VVS Laxman after India lost the second T20 to New Zealand at Rajkot on 4 November.

And he wasn’t the only one berating the wicketkeeper-batsman after Dhoni failed to rotate strike with Virat Kohli. Several former India cricketers and experts raised questions about whether Dhoni still deserves to play in the T20 squad, or if it’s time for him to make way for younger players like Rishabh Pant.

However, Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri (actually the ones that matter) lashed out at the critics and categorically said that Dhoni’s contribution to the team was unmatchable.

Understand Where He Bats

Kohli said that while being critical of Dhoni, one needed to understand how much time he gets to bat in an innings.

"By the time he comes in (at No 6), the run rate is already 8.5- 9.5. The wicket is also not the same like when the new ball is being bowled. Batsmen who are set at the top find it easier to strike the ball straightaway compared to guys who come lower down the order. The kind of wickets that we played on, wear and tear has been much more in the latter half,” the skipper said about his predecessor.

In the four innings (since January 2016) that Dhoni came in to bat at No 4, he has scored at a strike rate of 175. However, when he came in to bat at six in the same time period, he notched 180 runs in 11 innings at a strike rate of 113.92 – a clear indication that coming in earlier gave him time to settle in better and subsequently perform better.

In Stats: Is No 6 the Ideal Batting Spot for MS Dhoni?
(Image: The Quint)

Why Point Fingers at One Man?

“Firstly, I don’t understand why people are only pointing him out,” said Virat when asked to clarify Dhoni’s ‘contribution to the team’.

If I fail as a batsman three times, no one is going to point a finger at me because I not over 35.
Virat Kohli

A look at the scorecard from the Rajkot T20 shows that barring Virat Kohli (65) and MS Dhoni (49), none of the batsmen actually helped India get anywhere near their target of 197 runs. After openers Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan got out for 5 and 1 run respectively, Shreyas Iyer added just 23 off 21 balls. Hardik Pandya too was dismissed for 1 and Axar Patel fell for 5. Then why is that instead of speaking about India’s dismal show, people chose to point at the one man who actually managed to stay at the crease for a substantial amount of time.

Virat perhaps nailed the answer to that – Dhoni’s age. The wicketkeeper-batsman’s ‘place in the team’ is perhaps only being questioned because he’s currently one of the oldest players in the squad.

One fails to notice is that in T20s, a total of eight cricketers have batted at No 4 since January 2014. This includes Suresh Raina – who last played during the T20 series against England in February and Shreyas Iyer – who made his India debut against New Zealand on 7 November.

In Stats: Is No 6 the Ideal Batting Spot for MS Dhoni?
(Image: The Quint)
The guy is fit, he is passing all the tests. He is contributing to the team in every tactical way on the field.
Virat Kohli

More than the scores of his bat, the skipper and even coach Shastri have time and again reiterated that MS Dhoni is “a massive influence on the team” who best understands “where he stands with his body and game”. So till he, or the team management decide that it’s time for Dhoni to step away, everyone should just enjoy watching the “living legend” play.

(With statistical inputs from Arun Gopalakrishnan.)

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