Why MS Dhoni Remains Integral to Team India
MS Dhoni’s ‘exclusion’ (they don’t use the word dropped in Indian cricket anymore, do they?) for India’s upcoming T20Is against West Indies and Australia has prompted significant debate in cricketing circles.
Captain Virat Kohli dispelled a lot of the larger questions emerging around the decision after India’s ODI series win over the Windies, saying his predecessor remains an integral part of the team.
The Quint examines why India cannot do without their former captain at the 2019 World Cup in England.
Is There a Better Keeping Alternative?
MS Dhoni is a keeper. No, really.
There exists a highest common factor (or lowest common multiple?) with every wicket-keeping alternative in sight for India in shorter formats – none of them offer security with the gloves.
Not Rishabh Pant, not Dinesh Karthik, not KL Rahul.
37-year-old Dhoni remains the most assured in catching, swiftest in stumping, and one-of-a-kind in back-flicked-run-outs as any keeper in the country.
That back-pedalling-before-diving take to get rid of Chandrapaul Hemraj in the 3rd ODI at Pune wasn’t quite the stuff of old bones, was it?
Isn’t Form Temporary, Class Permanent?
Yes, the stats have been chalked out – and they don’t make good reading.
But can you really attribute ‘waning powers’ to a guy who averaged over 60 just last year? Or someone who enjoyed possibly his most productive IPL season just this year, averaging over 75 and striking at above 150 in a format he’s apparently not suited to anymore?
Doesn’t This Team Need a Stabilizer?
The biggest argument against Dhoni in his current avatar is the dipping ability to clear the boundaries the way he once did – which can be a huge issue in this day of flat tracks and 350 being the new 300.
But sample most of India’s defeats in the 50-over game over the last couple of years, and the common thread would be the rare occurrence of the top-order not firing.
If India, hypothetically, are 30/3 batting first in a World Cup game next summer, with Sharma, Dhawan and Kohli back in the hut, who would they rather have coming in? A dashing basher (say, Rishabh Pant) who holds the ability to turn things around but comes with guaranteed risk of a no-score in case he flays at one too many, or a grafting accumulator (read: Dhoni) who might irritate impatient viewers with his lack of flair but could anchor the lower-middle order to a middling yet competitive score that keeps the match alive?
Is There a Substitute for Experience?
If India are to go all the way at the World Cup in England, Dhoni will have turned 38. That’s a big number. Too big to deliver at the world stage?
Think Imran Khan, 1992. All of 39, struggling to put bat to ball, or ball to wicket. All of 113 runs and 6 wickets to his name coming into the final. He strode out at the MCG with Pakistan 24/2, and the wind behind English ears. He made 72. The rest is history. Oh, he also took the final wicket, before going and lifting his country’s only WC crown.
Or look closer home to Sachin Tendulkar, 2011. Touching 38. Nearing a hundred hundreds. Hampered by form and injury in South Africa a month ahead of the campaign.
He scored 482 runs that World Cup. 85 of them game-changing (albeit fortune-aided) in a semi-final against Pakistan.
The romance of these two tales notwithstanding, picture this: India are in the World Cup semis, defending 13 in the last over. Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar have bowled out. Whoever’s entrusted with the final over, starts off with a wide. And maybe a six after that.
Who do you think, among still-playing Indian cricketers, would be the best arm to have around the shoulder of the bowler?