What’s the story?
"I am not bothered about his form. He is a class player, and we have just played three games, so he will be fine,” said the Supergiant skipper.
Smith covered a lot of ground about Pune’s disappointing start to the year, when he chatted to reporters on Thursday, striking a generally optimistic tone, on Dhoni and others.
RPS are under early heat after falling in their last two matches after beating Mumbai Indians first time out. While the bowling has been torrid, except for Tahir, the batting has also shown itself to be fragile – they were only able to muster 108 chasing Delhi Daredevils’ 206.
Smith may have given his wicket-keeper full backing, but Dhoni’s former captain and teammate, Sourav Ganguly, has raised doubts as to whether MSD is still suitable for T20 cricket.
"I am not too sure if Dhoni is a good T20 player. He is a champion ODI player but when it comes to T20 cricket, in 10 years, he has got one fifty and that's not the best record,” Ganguly told India Today.
Dhoni has scored just 28 runs so far this IPL, but it’s the manner of his batting which has perhaps caused even more concern. In Pune’s opener against Mumbai Indians, the Indian wobbled to a run-a-ball 12 not out, heaping pressure on Smith in a high-octane chase – although they did eventually prevail.
Next time out, Dhoni looked shaky as Pune couldn’t find momentum against Kings XI Punjab, eventually being out caught-and-bowled for just 5 from 11 balls. He then made just 11 against Delhi Daredevils, but too much criticism – the entire Pune line-up collapsed – would be unfair.
Spinner Imran Tahir was lauded by the Aussie captain for his strong performances, with the South African doing his best to keep RPS in matches, despite receiving little to no help from the rest of the bowling attack.
“He is the number one bowler in the world in T20, he has good tricks in bowling, he knows his game very well,” Smith commented.
He has been a key player for us so far and will remain so in the remaining matches."
Pune will next take to the field on April 14 in the night game, where they have a good chance to pick up their second win of IPL 2017 against Gujarat Lions – who have lost both matches they’ve played this season.
Even diehard Dhoni fans must admit that the ex-Indian captain is no longer of the calibre he once was, but the 35-year-old must surely get out of his slump at some point and have an impact for RPS going forward.
It’s not as if Dhoni’s woes are weighing down Pune unnecessarily since he isn’t occupying a prized overseas spot, and nor is there a better option for them than the World Cup winner.
But that doesn’t mean Pune are getting it right with Dhoni at the moment by batting him at five. Perhaps experimenting by moving him up the order, giving him the license to attack with less pressure, could help Dhoni recapture some much-needed touch.