The Dhoni debate continues

Mahendra Singh Dhoni is a fantastic sportsperson and that's why the unending talks around him aren't surprising. Nobody cares about the failure of an ordinary player. It's only when the greats struggle that the vultures begin to circle around them.  

The man who sealed the World Cup for India with a six eight years ago, is striving hard to find answers to doubts from those who don't want him to travel to England for the World Cup in May. The vociferous criticism is partly justifiable. In 13 innings last year, Dhoni failed to clock a single half-century. For many familiar with his finishing abilities, it was a harsh reality of the veteran losing his mojo. 

PTI file photo

The story so far of Dhoni's career isn't short of a Bollywood script as we have already witnessed. And Dhoni, like a bruised hero, has decided to hit back than give up. The veteran has the strong backing of the team management, and his man-of-the-series show in the recently concluded limited overs series against Australia would have come as a relief to the think tank. 

As the #DhoniDebate grows, let's look at what works and what doesn't with India’s former captain. 

Reuters file photo

Pluses: Dhoni is brilliant behind the stumps. Age has only made him a better and sharper wicketkeeper. There is no better guide to captain Kohli in crunch situations than the 37-year-old. Dhoni was a clever leader, and old habits die hard. Kohli has acknowledged the importance of Dhoni's inputs. "I have seen even Sachin get angry but not Dhoni," Ravi Shastri once said. Which team wouldn't want such a cool customer? And as seen in the Australia series, Dhoni, with the support of the younger crop, can still be the man India wants while chasing. 

Minuses: His strike rate is a big concern. Despite his decent return to form, there is still concern over his batting. There is no clarity on which batting position suits him. The veteran could do himself a favour by trying to mix attack with caution. In the last couple of years, he has taken time to build his innings but failed to take India past the finish line a few times. 

"Nobody knows what goes on in his mind," Kohli said about Dhoni a couple of days back. Even as we wonder about the longevity of this legend, here is a look at his brilliant knocks in the recent past: 

2016: The five-match series against New Zealand was levelled at 1-1 ahead of the third ODI at Mohali. The Black Caps piled up a formidable 285 and then reduced India to 41/2. Dhoni, pushed to number 4, was involved in a 151-run stand with skipper Virat Kohli (154). A Kohli ton in a chase had become a norm but what worked in India's favour was the under pressure Dhoni's carefree approach to his innings. At an impressive strike rate of 87.91, Dhoni was adventurous and frequently went for big shots. Smashing six fours and three sixes, Dhoni made an entertaining 80 and did the job for India. 

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2017: It was a Dhoni special even though while India batted first. Dhoni, the chase master, is an underrated middle order batsman when India is setting up a total. Thanks to overnight rain, it wasn't the easiest of conditions to bat in at the North Sound against the West Indies. But Dhoni, with his terrific running between the wickets and busy style of play, revels on surfaces that are slow and challenging. At 100/3 at the half-way mark, India needed someone to offer a steady finish. Dhoni (78 n.o., 79b, 4x4, 2x6) along with Kedar Jadhav (40), played a superbly paced knock. He was calm till the 43rd over before launching his assault to help India post 251. The total was enough for India to pull off a 93-run win. 

2017: At Kandy, a struggling Sri Lankan side had laboured their way to 217. However, India slumped to 61/4. Opener Rohit Sharma was in cruise mode at one end and he had Dhoni as his ideal partner. Dhoni found runs hard to come by early on, but he remained unflustered. He handled the talented Sri Lankan spinners well and that eased the pressure for India. His 86-ball 67 was another example of his mastery while chasing. 

PTI file photo

2017: A big Dhoni hundred is an exciting watch. At Cuttack, the veteran rolled the years back with a 122-ball 134 that left the England bowling attack battered and begging for mercy. Once again questioned for his poor form, Dhoni roared back to his best with a thunderous knock. He stitched a 256-run stand with Yuvraj Singh (150) and for cricket fans, the partnership brought with it a strong rush of nostalgia. 

Tweet your responses @deccanherald with #DhoniDebate

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