This series has all been about the rise of Bangladesh cricket. The ‘minnows’ have just had two back-to-back series wins – while Pakistan were whitewashed, India are on the verge of facing a similar prospect as well.
Helping them with the second success is a mighty Indian batting lineup consisting of a devastating opener, highest individual run-scorer in a single ODI, a batsman rated in the same league as Sachin Tendulkar and one of the best finishers the game has ever seen. Many fear that MS Dhoni, the last of the four, has all but lost the ability to send the ball sailing over the ropes, to finish matches and win them.
But how true is this observation?
A cricket website has a clock ticking which counts the time gone by since Dhoni last scored a century in ODIs. It says one year and 246 days. But do centuries decide how successful a batsman is? Misbah ul Haq will certainly not agree.( Haq is yet to score a century in ODI cricket).
Let us dig deeper in to MSD’s stats in the last two years to find out more. It was October 30, 2013 when Dhoni last raised his bat after scoring a ton. It was against Australia in Mohali. If you still don’t remember the match, it was the one in which James Faulkner scored 30 in Ishant Sharma’s 48th over. India lost that match. In fact, Dhoni’s last two centuries have come in a losing cause. The other was against Pakistan in Chennai in 2012.
Now consider the following: Dhoni averages more than 52 runs per innings after his 139* against Australia and in the last two years his average is 55. Only Virat Kohli has an average better than Dhoni in this period for India.
That shows that Dhoni has been a consistent performer for India irrespective of the number of centuries he has scored. He has ten scores of 50 and above in the 41 matches that he has played in the period.
The closest he came to scoring a hundred after his last ton was in the World Cup match against Zimbabwe in which he scored an unbeaten 85, finishing a game that looked set to hang in the balance when he arrived at the crease. He did finish against West Indies as well.
So is there a pattern in which Dhoni scores his hundred? Well, probably there is. Before the hundred against Pakistan in 2012, Dhoni scored a ton in 2010 against Bangladesh. In between the two centuries, Dhoni had those famous 80s and 90s to win the game for India, one being the 91* in the 2011 World Cup final against Sri Lanka.In a nutshell, Dhoni has three centuries in the last five years while his first six centuries came in the first six years of his career.
The captain cannot be blamed for India’s poor run. Neither him scoring centuries has guaranteed India success nor his mighty sixes. The last time India won an away ODI in a bilateral or tri-series was against England in Birmingham in July last year. Since then, it has been a flop show. Certainly the captain has to take the responsibility for the defeats.
A loss against Bangladesh is much more severe and questions about Dhoni and his numbers will be asked, not for the last time.
But the question remains, how often have numbers revealed the full story?