New Delhi: The Indian batting has been revolving around its talismanic captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni for quite some time now. It was once again evident in the victory against England in Kochi on Tuesday when he pulled the team out after another top order failure.
It’s not for nothing that England captain Alastair Cook called Dhoni as the most difficult batsman to bowl at the death. Dhoni’s counterpunching knock of 72 off 66 balls — adding 108 in 10 overs with Ravindra Jadeja — came after India were 119 for four at one stage.
The dependency on Dhoni’s batting has never been as stark as was seen in the ODI series against Pakistan and now England.
The top order has repeatedly crumbled and Dhoni has been the saviour.
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It has made it all the more difficult for him to perform with the sword forever hanging over his head post the disastrous results in the past couple of Test series.
There have been growing calls to sack him as captain of the Test side, but Dhoni has gone about his job unruffled.
With the Test series against Australia to follow, Dhoni has hardly got any breathing space.
But keeping with his image of captain cool, he has given his best every time he has walked on to the field.
With the array of strokes that he has, and an ability to guide the innings with a calm head, Dhoni has been India’s best batsman in ODIs. And when he brings out his trademark helicopter stroke, it is a treat for the fans.
“He is certainly the crisis man of the Indian team,” former captain Ajit Wadekar told MAIL TODAY. “Earlier the Indian batting revolved around Sachin Tendulkar, then Dravid and even Virender Sehwag. Dhoni has taken over that role now. And with the top order not performing that well, Dhoni has taken the extra responsibility on his shoulders.” With the recent spate of poor performances by the top order that includes the like of Sehwag, Gambhir and Yuvraj Singh, the image of Dhoni, the batsman, has only got enhanced.
His century knock in the second ODI against Pakistan in Chennai, where he bailed out his team from a perilous 29 for five is already being ranked as one of the greatest ODI innings ever by an Indian.
Calm and calculative as ever, Dhoni stands amid the ruins collecting runs in bits and pieces.
The spadework done, Dhoni explodes the way only he can.
When Dhoni the batsman broke through the Indian ranks, he carved his own space in a team that had stroke- makers of the caliber of Tendulkar, Sehwag and Yuvraj. He came as a powerful hitter of the cricket ball, the strength in his wrists and forearms taking the ball to distance.
But over the years, Dhoni has moulded his game brilliantly to supplement his stroke- making ability. It seems he knows exactly when to grind and when to take the aerial route, and against which bowler.
The other attribute that makes Dhoni so dangerous is his running between the wickets. He will always have an eye on that scoreboard, and that makes him a master of managing an innings.
Without doubt he is one of fittest Indian cricketers in the world at the moment, as he showed in that knock in Chennai.
The combination of his large assembly of skills, some natural and some practiced with dedication, makes him one of the best finishers ODI cricket has seen.
“His biggest strength is that he keeps the scoreboard moving. He will never tire,” says Wadekar. “He is so confident about his ability. He leads by example. He is among the best finishers surely,” he says.
When he promoted himself up the order in that historic night at Wankhede, he won India the World Cup. But he has not done that often. Wadekar says it is because he is also the captain and he has to give confidence to the middle order.
“Don’t forget that he is leading the side and he has to think of so many things. He may not want to shatter the confidence of the middle order which is not amongst runs.”