MS Dhoni’s 96-ball 51 at a strike rate of 53.12 against Australia at Sydney has received much flak from all quarters. However, Dhoni’s knock came at a vital time during India’s innings when they were reduced to 3/4 chasing a target of 289. Another wicket then would have killed the chase, as Rohit Sharma explained in the post-match presentation ceremony.
Dhoni used all his experience to forge a partnership of 137 runs for the fourth wicket with Rohit. If Dhoni had been there for another few overs, he could have accelerated in the company of Rohit and probably taken India across the finish line. But Dhoni fell to a dubious LBW decision and India did not have any referral left to challenge the decision.
Nevertheless, in the context of the match, MS Dhoni’s innings is blamed for India falling short by 34 runs of Australia’s score of 288.
Yes, indeed, Dhoni’s big hitting and ability to rotate the strike is on the wane. But he is still the best keeper-batsman to feature in India’s squad for 2019 World Cup.
Rishabh Pant breathing down MS Dhoni’s neck
Although Rishabh Pant’s success in Test cricket may question Dhoni’s place in the squad. But experience cannot be bought or sold over the counter. And rushing Pant just months ahead of 2019 World Cup would not be fair to him or the legend MS Dhoni who would be targetting the tournament as his farewell to the gentleman’s game. Besides, he would be motivated to help India win their third World Cup title.
MS Dhoni gives a lot of options
Other than that, Dhoni adds more than just depth in the batting line-up. He doubles up as a second backup skipper in the squad while manning the field during the opposition’s innings.
Dhoni helps Kohli setting the field while the latter is manning the outfield with his electric fielding and saving those precious runs and taking brilliant running catches.
Dhoni, on many occasions under the leadership of Kohli, has guided India to thrilling wins while defending scores with his brilliant field placements.
Dhoni has also plotted many wickets while guiding young spinners YS Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav behind the wickets. Dhoni’s smart stumpings and catches have been always at high quality in contrast to his waning ability with the bat.
Unfair to replace Dhoni now?
It will be unfair to replace MS Dhoni at such a critical juncture just on the basis of one innings when India were under pressure at 3/4 and months before the 2019 World Cup. If Dhoni had fallen early, then the call to replace him would have been stronger and justified. But the fighter in Dhoni not only fought off the challenge from Australian bowlers but also gave India hope of making a contest of the match.
Till Dhoni-Rohit were at the crease, India have had a great chance to go all the way. And their partnership only kept India in the game till the very end when Rohit was waging a lone battle in the death overs.
The repercussions and cons of replacing Dhoni now are huge and the benefits of sticking with the legend outweigh the negatives.
However, time is running out for Dhoni who must put up a few match-winning performances for India to inspire confidence in the team management, coach, captains and the most important, fans. Can Dhoni live up to this challenge?