MS Dhoni, the batsman: How far will he go?
As India prepare to clash against Australia in the 1st ODI on Friday at the Sydney Cricket Ground, they will be in high spirits on the back of a historic Test series victory. Although the Indian ODI and Test teams have differences, they know that their opposition has more problems than them.
On paper, India look the bigger side and Australia will need to play out of their skin to churn out positive results from this series.
India are not without problems, as mentioned. Their main objective of this series is to pick the core of the team that will field itself in the forthcoming ICC Cricket World Cup. Their middle order is not as fluent as it used to be. Some young players have been tried and test in the number 4, a spot that is still up for grabs.
And MS Dhoni, the man who had been doing it for a long time, is in some serious spot of bother due to his batting. The talisman's record in 2018 was poor, by his standards.
He couldn't score a fifty in the whole year. His batting average was mere 25 as he could only score 275 at a strike rate of 71.42 in 13 innings. He received a lot of criticism for his batting. This was not a proud year for MS Dhoni. His worst year in international cricket, albeit his form had started dipping since 2016 when he averaged 27.80.
He showed signs of a return to form in 2017, as he put on seven scores of 50 or more, along with one century. His form in IPL 2018 looked very promising as well. But he couldn't replicate that rhythm in international cricket.
Hence, this series will be an acid test for him to return to decent batting form. Rishabh Pant has already portrayed his talent and skills in this Test series. More importantly, his batting style matches to that of a perfect finisher.
Risabh Pant's wicket-keeping skills are still not well rounded. He is not included in the ODI squad for New Zealand and Australia, so he will need to find other ways to justify his place in the World Cup squad. And this is where Dhoni's form will be a crucial factor.
The veteran scored his first 5000 ODI runs in less than 5 years, which still is an unbeaten record for fastest 5000 ODI runs in terms of days. His next 5000 took him almost double that time. There is no doubt that his powers have deteriorated. His reliance on his strong bottom hand and fast bat-swing are not helping him a lot these days.
While he has shown no signs of ageing with respect to fitness, his batting has drawn major criticism in recent times. It's what gave him chances as a youngster, and it is what will cement his place in the World Cup squad.
If he cannot return to form before and during the World Cup 2019, will it dent his contribution to Indian Cricket? Is MS Dhoni, the batsman, starting to perish in international cricket?