World Cup 2019: Mahendra Singh Dhoni is not a liability
Analysis: The numbers show he hasn't erred so much for the flak he is getting, but has in fact, done exactly what the team wanted him to do
Manchester: You don't associate milestones with Mahendra Singh Dhoni. And he has not given the impression that he is seduced by figures. That is why his 350th ODI on Wednesday at Old Trafford went unnoticed. Dhoni once again became the punching bag after India lost by 18 runs to New Zealand in the semi-final.
Dhoni's 72-ball 50 that included just one four and a six 'enhanced' his newly-acquired reputation of a slow batter during the World Cup. Compared to the hard-hitting Dhoni that the world has seen over the years, the Dhoni on display in this tournament was not the same. But given the role assigned to him by the team management and in the context of the games, Dhoni performed his role to near-perfection.
When Virat Kohli was asked why Dhoni was sent at No. 7 in the semi-final, the Indian skipper said: "He's been given that role after the first few games wherein if the situation is bad, he can control one end like he did today or if there is a scenario where there are six or seven overs left, he can go and strike."
Dhoni arrived at the crease during the 23rd over with the scoreboard reading 71-5. He had just two recognised batsmen with him now — Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja. As the senior-most batsman, Dhoni maneuvered the strike and ensured maximum chances were provided to Pandya and Jadeja — a fact even acknowledged by the legendary Sachin Tendulkar in his post-match analysis with India Today.
When Pandya fell to Mitchell Santner with score reading 92-6, Dhoni further cut down on risks as the target of 240 was still a distance away. Dhoni stitched a partnership of 116 runs for the seventh wicket with Jadeja to keep India in the hunt. In the match against Bangladesh at Birmingham where he scored a 33-ball 35, batting at No. 6, Dhoni arrived in the 39th over. His knock propelled India to 314-9 after losing a bit of momentum when Mustafizur Rahman sent back Kohli and Pandya in the same over.
When the pitch was a bit tricky at Edgbaston against England, Dhoni didn't throw his wicket away. He hung around for a 31-ball unbeaten 42 after which his intent was
questioned. Dhoni's unbeaten 56 against West Indies at Old Trafford also came under heavy scrutiny.
His slow start was questioned, but coming into bat in the 29th over following Kedar Jadhav's dismissal at 140-4, it was important for India to get a partnership at that stage. He stitched a 40-run stand with Kohli and a 70-run partnership with Pandya. And once Pandya departed in the penultimate over, Dhoni took the onus on himself and helped India post 268-7.
When Dhoni had to provide a late push against Australia at The Oval, he did so and scored 27 off 14 balls to help India score 352-5. Apart from failures against Pakistan and Afghanistan, Dhoni has done justice to his role of a senior pro. Yes, he is no spring chicken and his blasting skills have waned, but a liability he wasn't for sure.
MS Dhoni's strike-rate in this World Cup
No. of runs scored by Dhoni in nine ODIs in this World Cup
Sign up for all the latest news, top galleries and trending videos from Mid-day.comSubscribe
World Cup 2019: MS Dhoni and Rohit Sharma cried during semifinal. Here's why