Why MS Dhoni must bat higher up the order in the ODI Series vs Australia
The euphoria of India’s historic maiden test series win down under is not over. In the aftermath and glow of that epic victory, the upcoming 3-match ODI series against Australia may seem a tad low key.
However, from the point of view of the 2019 ICC World cup preparation, this series as well as all the subsequent ODI matches are of immense importance. The Indian team is looking a formidable unit right now and will certainly be one of the top favourites to lift the World Cup.
The Indian team management has done very well in the various ODI series and tournaments last year to identify its core as well as the reserve strength. Most key places have been more or less settled.
The re-emergence of Ambati Rayudu during the Asia cup and his continued good show in the West Indies series has assuaged the fear of a brittle middle order. However, the diminishing returns of India’s talismanic wicket-keeper batsman, MS Dhoni continues to be a major worry.
Now it is certain that Dhoni will be India’s first choice wicket keeper for the world cup. Whoever is eventually selected out of Dinesh Kartik and Rishabh Pant will only be a back-up wicket keeper, or at best can find a slot in the middle order as a pure batsman.
In MS Dhoni, India has the best wicket keeper in the world right now. He is also vastly experienced and his leadership qualities and inputs on and off the field will be of immense help to the Indian team.
As a batsman, Dhoni has long been considered one of the best finishers in the game. But his batting form has been less than desirable for quite some time now. If he can rediscover some of his mojo before the world cup, that will greatly help India’s cause.
But for that to happen, it is important that he gets enough opportunities with the bat in the ODI format. With the kind of strong batting order India has, especially at the top, batting opportunities for Dhoni will be few and far between. This is where captain Kohli must consider promoting Dhoni up the order, possibly at number three, in at least some of the upcoming matches.
Of course, India should try to win the matches and it is important for India to have a settled batting order. But it is equally important for India to have an in-form Dhoni during the world cup.
Captain Kohli must find a way to provide enough opportunities to Dhoni to get back to form. That won’t happen if he continues to bat lower down the order, which would result him in warming the bench more often than not.