Pacers, Youngsters & Retirement: Dhoni’s Big Decisions v Australia

Here’s a look at some big questions Dhoni may have to answer over the next month. 

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Sports
4 min read
India play Australia in a five-match ODI series starting Tuesday.

8 matches in 19 days- that’s what the Indian cricket team has on its roster for the next few weeks.

In the year India hosts the World T20 in March, Dhoni’s men however start things off with a five-match ODI series from Tuesday in Perth. While the skipper’s given his customary preview bytes stressing on the importance to give youngsters a chance, the question is, will he?

Will he play all 4 youngsters? If he does, then where will he bat? How will he tackle the Aussies pace? Many questions to ask, so why now get them all together for five big questions marks?

1. Lean Patch, Overturn?

As much fist pumping and joyous dancing as we saw in 2015, it was all in whites. In fact with Dhoni at the helm, the Indian team did not win a single ODI series in 2015(Rahane was captain in Zimbabwe)

A little extra pressure may also creep in if you take a look at the skipper’s record Down Under. The Aussies are the one team against who Dhoni has the worst win percentage- having finished on the celebrating side just 37.14% of the times the two teams have faced-off. That’s 13 victories and 17 defeats for the skipper.

But, this Australian team under Steve Smith is different.

Only three of his bowlers- Josh Hazlewood, Mitch Marsh and James Faulkner- have played an Indian side before. What’s more, only Faulkner has more than 50 ODI wickets to his credit.

With two debut caps being handed out tomorrow to 23-year-old left-arm pacer Joel Paris and 26-year-old Victorian Scott Boland, Australia will go with an all-pace attack. But what’s that they say about opening doors?

(Photo: AP)
(Photo: AP)

2. Back Yourself?

It’s been 11 years since MS Dhoni made his ODI debut at the number 6 spot.

He has over the years been christened one of the best finishers of the game. He’s got signature shots to win matches with. He’s captain reliable.

He also has collected just nine ODI centuries in all this time. In fact in 2015, MS Dhoni’s batting average also fell to an 8-year low of 45.71. The 47 and 69 against Bangladesh or the 92* against South Africa though- all came when he came out at 4 or 5.

One of the reasons, why I want to bat up the order is that somebody else takes the responsibility of batting lower down the order. If I start batting at No 5, at least someone else will take up that responsibility.

MS Dhoni on batting higher

So, with Suresh Raina now back home in India, can the skipper now come out at four? Or will it be training sessions for the younger ones now as he still waits till the end?

Pacers, Youngsters & Retirement: Dhoni’s Big Decisions v Australia

3. Who’s Spotlight is It?

Dropping some of his regulars for Australia gave Dhoni the chance to pack his squad with some young blood. Four to be precise.

Manish Pandey may have played that one ODI but Gurkeerat Mann did not. He was with the Indian team throughout the home series against South Africa but not one game came his way. There is also Rishi Dhawan and Barinder Sran to pick from.

No “seaming all-rounder” though Dhoni. :)

I think this tour is a perfect platform for the young team to show its class.

MS Dhoni, Indian Captain

Which one will he pick though?

Pandey – the IPL star who bats like he’s always racing to a 100. Or Rishi Dhawan who’s over and again made his mark in the Ranji with the bat and even with the ball. Or Gurkeerat, fresh off a Ranji double hundred or countless match-winning spells with his offspin? Or Sran- the fast bowler everyone is talking about after the practise game?

4. Kitne Pacemen?

Australia are going to play five seamers in the match on Tuesday(surprise!)

While MS Dhoni has suggested he will go with a 3 and 2 formula for the game- the dilemma for him now is which fast bowlers to pick?

The spin department is covered by Ashwin and Jadeja but with Mohammed Shami out with a hamstring injury, is his replacement Bhuvneshwar Kumar a shoe-in for his spot in the squad?

Kumar has been under fire off-late and with a below par series against South Africa and not a great record in Australia, will Dhoni show his faith in Barinder Sran- the left-handed fast bowler everyone is talking about?

(Photo: AP)
(Photo: AP)

5. Retirement On His Mind?

This is one no one really wants the answer to- will this be Dhoni’s last ODI series or his last series as the ODI captain?

How long will our 34-year-old leader stay with his pack?

Will he, somewhere in Australia, decide if this will be his last series as odi captain or last ODI series ever. After all what’s better than going out on a high and there is a world t20 in just 2 months time- the first trophy he won for India in his glittering career. Time to end things at a full circle -- at home?

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