Top of the game in the shortened version

Top of the game in the shortened version

Cricket: ODI series: M S Dhoni is the leading run-getter this year

Top of the game in the shortened version

Hitting out: M S Dhoni was in top form at Nagpur even though his team lost the match. AFP

The knock against Sri Lanka wasn’t too dissimilar to the one against Australia that came just over a month ago. After biding his time, the right-hander lay into Australian bowlers to guide India to their highest one-day total against Ricky Ponting’s men. India were three down for almost the same score on both the occasions when Dhoni walked on to the field and the Jharkhandi batted in the same fashion to shape India’s big totals: the only difference being that this time India had to taste defeat.

Incidentally this is the first time that India have lost an ODI when Dhoni has scored a century. His previous five centuries have all resulted in victories, four to India and one to an Asian XI against an African XI in the Afro-Asia Cup.

Dhoni’s knock may have been overshadowed by Tillakaratne Dilshan’s bruising century, but it was hard to miss as to how the stumper has evolved as one of world’s premier one-day batsmen. The year 2009 especially has been the most productive one for the 28-year-old, an impressive tally of 1,198 runs from 28 games at an average of just over 70 that pits him along with Ponting as the highest run-getter in ODIs for the current season.

“Well, it’s been a good year for me,” Dhoni noted about the season. “I have batted at different positions this year and the aggregate shows that I have batted well through the year. The credit for my good showing should also go to team members because when you bat at number four or five or six, you would have got a good platform which allows you to play your natural game and gather runs,” he observed.
Talking about natural game, Dhoni, after assuming the captaincy, to a great extent has curbed his natural attacking instincts to suit the team’s needs. The presence of the likes of Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh to play those roles has also allowed him to afford that luxury. But whenever the situation has demanded he has proved quite often that the aggressor in Dhoni is just dormant and not completely extinct.

Dhoni has been predictably unpredictable when it comes to batting order. In the last four matches against Lanka itself he batted at number three in the first three matches while in Nagpur he held himself back till the fall of the third wicket. And more often than not he has justified his decision notching up good scores.  
“It’s all about demands,” he said when asked about the logic about changing batting orders frequently. “It’s about what your team requires from you at a particular time and which player can do it for you. If we have to score more runs I promote myself. I try to be there till the end so that in the slog overs we can score more freely when one set batsman is there. By batting at different slots I have learnt what kind of pressure every individual has. What happens is when you consistently bat up the order you don’t really understand what pressure the batsman at six faces because his responsibility is different,” he explained.

Dhoni’s solidity in the middle-order will certainly be missed in Cuttack and Kolkata courtesy the two-match ban for maintaining slow over-rate in Nagpur and with Yuvraj Singh still uncertain, it remains to be seen how India tide over the problem against the resurgent Lankans.