India vs West Indies 4th ODI: MS Dhoni, in super slow-mo, fails to lead India to victory

Decline in the MS Dhoni’s batting was evident during his 114-ball 54 against West Indies on Sunday as India failed to chase down a meager total of 190 runs. India still lead the five-match series 2-1 with one match remaining to be played

Written by Bharat Sundaresan | North Sound | Updated: July 4, 2017 9:49 am
india vs west indies, ind vs wi, india vs west indies dhoni, Fading Away? Spectators watch as MS Dhoni waits for a delivery during the fourth ODI between India and West Indies at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in North Sound on Sunday. The hosts beat India by 11 runs. (Source: AP)

MS DHONI was a broken man and looked the part. India had just succumbed to an embarrassing defeat, failing to chase down 190 in Antigua. Minutes earlier, Dhoni had holed out to long-on with India needing 14 off the last seven deliveries. It was his first attempt at a big shot, and as is very often the case these days, he had not found either height or distance but only the fielder. After the loss, Dhoni’s face was a picture of misery in the Indian balcony. He sat forlorn and crestfallen while staring into the distance. And it took a teammate to pat Dhoni on his shoulder to literally shake him out of the sombre trance. He offered a handshake but the expression didn’t change.

Sadly for the former India captain, it’s an avatar of him that plays out frequently these days. There were moments during the IPL — the match where Ben Stokes scored a century and the final itself — when Dhoni would sit similarly distraught in the dug-out after having fallen in the quest for a big shot, an envious trait of his batting at his peak but one that seems to be deserting him rapidly. And what’s worse, there’s a younger, more exciting talent nipping at his heels right here in the Caribbean in the form of Rishabh Pant, with many suggesting it’s already time for the wicketkeeping gloves to be passed on.

That Dhoni isn’t the finisher he used to be has been apparent for the last three years. There have been enough instances to show that he’s simply not delivering the knockout blow with the same unerring consistency as before. On occasions, like here in Antigua on Sunday and often in the IPL, he isn’t even lasting till the last round. But Sunday’s 54 off 114 balls with a single boundary, the slowest half-century by an Indian in 16 years, was a frightening illustration of just how much his power-game has slipped and it even invoked comparisons with Sunil Gavaskar’s infamous 36 not out of 160 balls in India’s first-ever World Cup match. Who would have thought one day Dhoni would force one to recall Gavaskar’s worst ODI hour?

New experiments

india vs west indies, ms dhoni, ms dhoni slowest 50, dhoni 50, cricket news, cricket, sports news, indian express But way too often, these days as soon as he wants to hit out, he ends up playing a flat and weak shot to either long-on or long-off.

For the aura that Dhoni possesses as being the most clinical finisher in the history of ODI cricket, his greatest strength always was finding the boundary when it was required. But way too often, these days as soon as he wants to hit out, he ends up playing a flat and weak shot to either long-on or long-off. Dhoni has spent time working on his bat-swing and the load-up in his stance of late to somehow regain the lost power. But while it seems to work on and off — like on a couple of occasions during his match-winning 74* off 78 balls in the third ODI, which included a powerful straight six — Dhoni is still not connecting his attempted wallops down the ground with the same ferocity as before. As a result, he is trying for newer options and stranger areas to hit the ball into.

The six he hit off Jason Holder, second of two in the same over, on Friday was uncharacteristically engineered. He swivelled around and used his body’s momentum to guide the ball over deep backward square-leg. Here on Sunday though, he got tied by Ashley Nurse’s harmless off-spin and Kesrick Williams’ variety of cutters on a sluggish pitch. In his heyday, Williams, playing only his second game, would have been exactly the kind of bowler to be targeted. Four years ago in the Caribbean, in a similar scenario Dhoni had finished off Shaminda Eranga’s ODI career with a three-ball assault that handed India a famous one-wicket win. There probably hasn’t been a more definitive Dhoni finish since.

Dhoni allowed Williams to get the better of him by sheer lack of initiative. The Vincentian seamer has developed a reputation of being a wily death-over specialist and the best of the kind in the CPL. And he conceded only 13 runs in his last 4 overs before deservedly capping his memorable performance with Dhoni’s wicket off his final delivery. By then, Dhoni with his strange knock had left the tail with too much to chase down.

The dwindling power in his game has got Dhoni to change his game in recent times. It’s a different Dhoni that walks out to the crease these days, a seemingly more cynical and pessimistic one. It’s as if there’s an overlying fear of not giving up his wicket at any cost, even if it means at times playing in a fashion that is counter-productive to the cause. The fact is that the pitch was tricky and wickets had fallen around him. But there was perhaps some prudence in Dhoni looking to pull the trigger a little early here, or at least take on one of the younger bowlers and put pressure on him.

He though wasn’t ready to budge and kept nurdling the ball around and didn’t play a shot in anger till the time Holder went to Roston Chase for a bizarre over, which conceded 16 runs and brought India back into the match.

Having his family around, and running errands for daughter Ziva, has helped Dhoni at least keep his mind off cricket during the many off-days on this tour. Like in England though, practice sessions have been hectic affairs, as he spends nearly 45 minutes hopping from one net to the other. Dhoni will know better than most that he will continue being judged not just on the runs he makes but the way he makes them, considering he is Dhoni after all. And knocks like the one on Sunday, especially with Pant now having reached as far as the Indian dressing-room, will only turn the whispers regarding his future in the game into a crescendo. And on a day, Dhoni did a Gavaskar, the look on his face said it all.

Brief Scores: West Indies 189 for nine in 50 overs beat India 178 all out in 49.4 overs (Rahane 60 off 91 balls, Dhoni 54 off 114 balls; Holder 5/27) by 11 runs.

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  1. A
    Alibaba
    Jul 4, 2017 at 10:39 pm
    Indian Express is critics express....The writer of this article is a negative person. stead of giving blame to the team, he point out only MSD. #fakesportscover
    Reply
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      avinash iytha
      Jul 4, 2017 at 6:26 pm
      M not a fan of Dhoni. But seriously what the is this..? Few days b4 when he lead the team to victory every1 hailed him to the skies. Now u r nailing him to the dungeons.
      Reply
      1. S
        Sivaji
        Jul 4, 2017 at 4:23 pm
        Dhoni and Rahane put in a great effort but the TEAM lost................. we just need to appreciate the effort of these two batsmen and move on. A single player is being criticized ever after playing well, but only because 9 other batsmen did not contribute.
        Reply
        1. K
          Karthik Bvm
          Jul 4, 2017 at 3:01 pm
          I know, nobody is happy with Dhoni's performance as batsman, but did you ever think who would Kohli consult if Dhoni is absent on the field? To be honest, I think it is better to get Rahane as captain let him learn from Dhoni, and when he is ready let Dhoni retire and bring in Pant. Kohli should just play with his bat as long as he can, he is not a captain material.
          Reply
          1. S
            Samskar Ebyaha
            Jul 4, 2017 at 2:34 pm
            Rahane 60 off 91 balls, Dhoni 54 off 114 balls. Not having watched the match, Rahane 60 off 91 balls equally or more worrying.
            Reply
            1. G
              gangadhar rao jakkam
              Jul 4, 2017 at 2:34 pm
              With this news really one can understand that how many enemies are there for this legend. They are badly waiting for the chance to point out Mahi and they got now.Really hatsoff to great Indian dirty politics- JG Rao.
              Reply
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                Gabriel Sobers
                Jul 4, 2017 at 2:30 pm
                I Think Dhoni sincerely made an effort to bring the team closer to the target. Except Rahane and Dhoni, nobody could meddle the ball. One must appreciate Dhoni's sincere effort. While there was demons in the pitch for all, Dhoni and Rahane made half centuries. Although India lost the match, we lost after putting a brave effort. Thanks to Dhoni and Rahane. Dhoni may not be at his flamboyant best now, but he is very effective and consistent.
                Reply
                1. S
                  S. Gopalakrishnan
                  Jul 4, 2017 at 12:42 pm
                  Dhoni's innings reminds us of Gavaskar's insipid innings in first World Cup for one day cricket in England
                  Reply
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