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From IPL to the England tour: What went wrong for MSD?

In the eleventh edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), Mahendra Singh Dhoni seemed to be turning around the clock to his younger days.

Last updated: 25.07.2018
From IPL to the England tour: What went wrong for MSD? | Sports Social Blog
Just 3 months back, in the eleventh edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), Mahendra Singh Dhoni seemed to be turning around the clock to his younger days. In fact, when he scored an unbeaten 70 for the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) against the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), the opposition skipper, Virat Kohli claimed that, for a few seconds, he was enjoying the Dhoni show before he realized that it was his team that was the receiver of some explosive batting, in a post-match interview. MSD, captaining CSK after a 2-year hiatus, was a star turn for the team and led by example, scoring 455 runs in 16 games at a staggering average of 75.83, striking at 150.66. Cut to the present and Dhoni has evidently struggled against the English quicks, on pacier English wickets, for the Indian ODI team. What has changed?

For one, the way the Indian team lines up can easily be distinguished from the CSK setup. In the former, Dhoni comes out to bat after 5 or 6 wickets have fallen, while he batted at no.4 or no.5 for the latter. Kohli and the Indian team have to come to terms with the fact that Dhoni is no longer a batsman who can go in and immediately smash a couple of sixes and fours in the final over each time. The man needs quite some time to settle down, and it is a known fact that he takes his time to read the pitch. And yes, in the final two ODIs, Dhoni did get quite a few overs to bat in, but that was not by the team’s or his choice. Rather, the relatively average performance by the top and central middle order consisting of players like Suresh Raina, Dinesh Karthik, KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma means a massive amount of pressure falls on Dhoni’s shoulders. The man usually soaks up the pressure ever so easily, but in testing conditions, where even the likes of Kohli have struggled, MSD seems to have had a disastrous series, not in terms of the runs scored, but in the time he has taken to do it.

Secondly, the English bowlers brought in their A-Game in the last two ODIs. Mark Wood and David Willey formed an outstanding opening bowling partnership by blocking the runs, as well as picking up wickets. Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali have also contained the runs, with the former grabbing quite a few wickets as well. Eoin Morgan did a wonderful job in the last two ODIs by rotating his bowlers constantly and his analysis of the pitch was perfect, which showed in his decision to bat first in the second ODI when most captains choose to bowl in the current scenario. They seemed to bowl to a set-strategy to batsmen like Kohli and Dhoni, who on their day, can decimate any bowling line-up, and followed the game-plan perfectly.

There are many speculations doing the rounds about MSD contemplating retirement after the series, and they will remain unanswered till the man himself speaks about it. But, the fact is that, although MSD did struggle in England, he alone does not deserve all the criticism because many of India’s other batsmen failed to cope up with the situation as well. Most Indian fans will continue to hope their talismanic wicket-keeper batsman stays on in the team set up for a bit longer, not only because he has proved his worth and taken the team home time and again, but also because India has tried and failed repeatedly in finding an able wicketkeeper batsman-cum-finisher. With the 2019 World Cup nearing, the fans and the team will hope things fall in place again for MS Dhoni.

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