Dhoni hit four sixes in a losing cause in the first one-day international in Rajkot and followed up with an irresistible 72 that inspired his side to a series-levelling win in Kochi on Tuesday.
The 31-year-old whipped a near 70,000 crowd into a fervour in that match, clubbing two maximums and seven boundaries to change the momentum of the game in a thrilling stand with Ravindra Jadeja. After performing similar heroics in the one-day series against Pakistan that preceded England’s return to India, Dhoni is clearly a man at the top of his game.
What better time, then, for him to lead out his country in the first international match to be staged in his hometown of Ranchi on Saturday.
If the chaotic scenes that accompanied the team’s touchdown in the city on Wednesday evening, or the hundreds of fans who queued at the gates of the HEC Stadium yesterday to watch the hosts train, are anything to go by, the third one-day international promises to be quite an occasion for Dhoni.
But England fielding coach Richard Halsall has told the touring side not to expect Dhoni to wilt under the spotlight. Asked if the buzz surrounding the game could load the pressure on Dhoni, Halsall said: “I don’t think he will feel it because the man does not seem to get unsettled.
“He just goes about his business. These boys thrive in the environment and it’s an amazing place to play cricket. International cricketers want to play in the first day of a Test at Lord’s, they want to play at the MCG in the Boxing Day Test, they want to play in World Cup finals or in front of 70,000 fans in Kerala.
“And they want to play in Ranchi in two days’ time because it will be absolutely jumping (for Dhoni). I don’t think it will affect MS in any way.”
New limited-overs coach Ashley Giles will be leading attempts to get the five-match series back on track.
Ashes-winning spinner Giles is enjoying his first tour in charge of his country’s one-day side, having been drafted in from Warwickshire to share the strain with team director Andy Flower.
Halsall has long been a member of Flower’s support team, joining the likes of David Saker, Graham Gooch and Mushtaq Ahmed.