How serious is MS Dhoni about defending the World Cup next year?
In the five-match ODI series against the Kiwis, after Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni seemed to be India’s most in-form batsman. While the openers and the other batsmen struggled to find their momentum, these two were seen battling under precarious circumstances for the team. But then there hasn’t been a problem with Dhoni’s batting, as he continues to be one the best batsman in world cricket. It’s his decision-making, which has baffled the fans and has led to his criticism.
Against the Black Caps, Dhoni continued to back his out of form players, who had a forgettable series in South Africa. Once the series was almost lost, the Indian skipper took everybody by surprise with his experiments in the fourth ODI. Suresh Raina and Shikhar Dhawan were replaced by Ambati Rayudu and Stuart Binny. Since an opener was dropped, Dhoni sent Virat Kohli to open the innings.
What made the Indian skipper to come up with such a weird decision is yet to be known. Just because Virat Kohi has been in prolific form, that doesn`t mean he can bat at any position. This decision was even more surprising as Ajinkya Rahane – who has opened for India in the past, wasn`t asked to face the new ball, despite being there in the playing eleven.
Another decision which was beyond one`s understanding was why did Dhoni even include Stuart Binny in the squad for the penultimate match, when he didn`t want to use him as a bowler who could get through four to five overs? Dhoni rather tossed the ball at Ambati Rayudu, who doesn`t even have a reputation of being a bowler. To make matters worse, Binny was dropped for the final ODI, after getting to bowl just one over in the previous match. That was an absurd way of discouraging a youngster, who is seen as someone who could end India`s search for an all-rounder and play a vital role on seaming tracks overseas.
Dhoni needs to identify players who can be used as replacements, not only for openers, but for other players as well just to give them some rest. While Bhuvneshwar Kumar is still struggling to get back into his groove, it was a good opportunity to try someone like Ishwar Pandey, who could have showcased his skills at the international level as well, after being a star in the domestic circuit.
Not to forget, sticking both with Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin while playing abroad, might not be a great idea as well. At times, the duo does add depth to the batting line-up, but it isn`t an ideal combo, as India`s bowling is exposed as none of them have made a significant impact with the ball. Dhoni could have replaced any one of them with a pacer or a specialist spinner like Amit Mishra.
At a time when teams like Australia and South Africa are looking a settled unit and are ready with different teams, for different formats of the game, Mahi is probably left on a cross road where he is picking and choosing from what he individually thinks are the best available options.
The ICC World Cup is still one year to go. It`s time for Dhoni to sit and work out on a list of his best players, who can be rotated as per their potential in all formats of the game.