Where should MS Dhoni bat in the Asia Cup 2018?
The Asian giants are ready to face in the biggest festival in Asian cricket, the Asia Cup, which is scheduled to commence today (15 September 2018). However, the top-ranked ODI batsman, Virat Kohli, is all set to miss the tournament since he has been rested by BCCI due to the heavy workload. In the absence of Virat Kohli, the No.3 spot in the Indian XI remains vacant, and different people have come up with different options for the vacant spot.
In my opinion, the No.3 spot should be occupied by the in-form Manish Pandey. In his last five innings in List A cricket batting for India B, Manish Pandey has scored over 300 runs against the likes of Australia A, South Africa A and India A, without losing a wicket. Moreover, Pandey played the role of the anchor in these innings. So, he could be the ideal batsman to bat at 3, in the absence of Kohli.
Now, where should Dhoni bat then?
Well, Dhoni should bat at No.4 in the Asia Cup. Batting at No.4 allows Dhoni to face more balls, enabling him to play with more freedom and less pressure. In recent time, we have not been able to witness the old vintage Dhoni. Allowing Dhoni to bat at 4 might just help to regain the lost touch for the veteran.
Statistically, Dhoni has better numbers batting at No.4 compared to other batting positions, where he has scored over a thousand runs. In the 27 innings where Dhoni has batted at No.4, he has piled up a mammoth 1230 runs, averaging about 56 and striking at the rate of 94.98. So, it would be a wise decision to have him bat at his favourite batting position.
Since Dhoni is not the finisher he was in the past at present, Jadhav and Pandya should be given the role of finishers in limited overs cricket. Even if Dhoni scores his first 30 runs at the cost of 45 balls, he still has that ability to accelerate in the death overs.
Now, many people are in favour of dropping Dhoni from the ODI XI, which I feel is not good at the moment. The highly experienced wicket-keeper batsman has assisted the Indian skipper, Virat Kohli, in a lot of aspects. Moreover, Dhoni has also been the prime reason for India's success in the successful use of DRS in limited overs cricket. Plus, no wicketkeeper has been groomed as the successor of Dhoni yet. Thus, opting to drop Dhoni in such a situation is pointless.
So, here's the ideal starting XI for India in the Asia Cup 2018:
Top order (1-3): Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Manish Pandey
Middle and lower order (4-7): MS Dhoni, Ambati Rayudu, Kedar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya
Bowlers (7-11): Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal and Jasprit Bumrah