Will MS Dhoni be an invaluable luxury at the 2019 World Cup, or an emotional burden?
Over the years, MS Dhoni has brought joy to millions of Indians across the globe through his magnificent performances, both as a leader and a player.
Under his leadership, India successfully acquired some remarkable cricketing accolades – ICC T20 World Cup (2007), ICC World Cup (2011) and ICC Champions Trophy (2013). Also, very recently, Dhoni became only the 4th Indian to score over 10,000 ODI runs after Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar, and that too at a staggering average of over 50.
Not just that, he also tops the charts for Indian wicketkeepers with over 400 dismissals. Dhoni is undoubtedly a legend of Indian cricket.
Despite his astonishing achievements though, his place in the team has been under scrutiny for a while now - because of his indifferent batting performances. Dhoni has silenced his critics for now by performing well in the recently concluded series against Australia, successfully reserving his flight ticket to England for the upcoming ICC World Cup 2019.
This raises a very important question - is Dhoni genuinely an invaluable luxury today, or is it just sheer emotion that has transformed into a burden leading up to the World Cup?
With age, MSD has slowed down considerably. He can no longer strike the ball from the very beginning, and now needs some time at the crease to feel comfortable - which adversely impacts the run rate in the middle overs. That also builds up unnecessary pressure on the batsman at the other end to score quickly and compensate for Dhoni's slow start, and may at times lead to a few quick wickets.
Unfortunately, even after spending time in the middle, the ‘helicopter shots’ aren’t flying off the field. Even the boundaries have dried up recently. The player once regarded as the ‘best finisher in the world’ is today struggling to win games for India with his long lost Midas touch.
At the same time, winning big cricketing events isn’t just about skills; it is also about managing nerves and absorbing pressure. Dhoni’s serene persona and vast experience (15 years / 300 ODIs) will certainly help keep the sanity in the team, especially in crunch situations.
MSD’s presence provides some much-needed strength and stability to India’s batting line-up in the middle order, and enables others to play around with flamboyance. Moreover, he continues to be excellent behind the stumps with his agility and swiftness.
It’s not just his technical skills but also his on-field guidance to bowlers, especially spinners, that often enables India to clinch wickets at very important junctures of the game.
Undoubtedly, Dhoni isn’t the same player that he used to be; over the years, he has lost some of his striking power. But in that time has also gained immense knowledge about the game itself.
We cannot expect him to destroy opponents with his hard-hitting. Instead, we should accept him for his sheer excellence in other cricketing facets which are equally important to win games.
So let’s not judge Dhoni's value purely on the basis of the ‘runs’ and ‘strike rate’. The game of cricket is much more than just that!
Without a doubt; Dhoni continues to be an invaluable luxury, and will almost certainly play a key role in India's fate at the World Cup.