It’s rare to hear MS Dhoni talk about his self-doubts. Especially about limited-overs cricket, the format that he has almost owned, and the format in which he has already left a great legacy. So much so that it came as a jolt to hear him say that he hasn’t quite nailed the T20 format.
Here are his words, spoken at the press conference after the match in Cuttack.
“I personally feel that I used too much brain in this format,” Dhoni said after the series loss.
“It’s very important I keep myself free and go and play my strokes. Depending on that I play a bit slow initially. In this format, I believe I should play the big shots from the word go irrespective of whatever the scenario is because that’s what this format is all about. A lot of time when I go into bat, be it the 16th or 17th over or in the fourth or fifth overs when wickets have fallen down, I have the tendency of like let’s go to 130, that will be good score.”
Not just at the end overs but he says even when he goes up in the fourth or fifth overs. It’s something so ordinary that if it was anyone else but him, no eyebrows would be raised. But Dhoni having a rethink about strategy is sure-shot sign of change in Indian cricket. In the past, India’s most-successful has taken atrocious decisions but stood by them. He wasn’t the kind to look back with regret or even skepticism. It’s interesting that this approach is coinciding with this stage in his career when he is having some problem in clearing the field, his big-hitting skills are waning a touch. Keeping that in mind, it will intriguing to see him swinging all the way.
Dhoni might want to make things simpler and less complicated, but in the same breath he, then, goes all Dhoni on us. Sample this quote on how to avoid run-outs. India had a couple of run outs in the last game against South Africa, and the greatest runner between wickets Indian cricket has ever seen, and one of all-time best even in world cricket, couches his solution in this manner. “You can convert 1.8 runs or 1.9 runs into 2, but not 1.75 or 1.7.” Skipper, can we keep it simpler?
As ever there is this cool Dhoni-brain quote in it as well. “Sometimes you have to keep the dew factor in mind, because the ball will go to the fielder quicker.”
One shudders to think his reaction if he had played alongside Javagal Srinath, whose running between the wickets was a sight to behold for all the wrong reasons.
Greater doubts than his batting approach ail his mind, and by extension Indian team. Why wouldn’t one want to have Ajinkya Rahane against a team full of pacers like South Africa? Why would you overthink it so much and think he is such a dull batsman that you would want to fit in Ambati Rayudu. Why would you send in Rayudu at No.3 then? Isn’t Rahane definitely a better batsman higher up? Can he also be trusted to even bat lower when the logic to give Rayudu a go is to give him enough chances?
“Unless they are exposed, you cannot tell who is good at it,” Dhoni talked up shuffling the batting order.
“We have played a lot of cricket and lot of guys have not been successful at No 6. We have seen them perform well at the top of the order but have struggled lower down. Someone has to take the responsibility of batting down. If I start batting at No 5, at least someone else will take up that responsibility. You need to have it in your back-up plan in the years to come,” Dhoni said.
Why can’t Rahane been given the same rope? Rayudu doesn’t bowl really and there is no real X-factor that he brings in that Rahane can’t. At least we can confidently say that if things go wrong and wickets fall early in a bunch, Rahane has the technique to handle the mini-collapse. You can’t be that confident with Rayudu. Isn’t it a stereotypical, and somewhat lazy thinking, to assume Rahane can’t be the limited-overs player that Rayudu is. If anything, against quality attacks, Rahane is safer bet.
It would be good if Dhoni not only simplifies his batting approach as he has said, but also thinks about the batting line-up. Keeping things simple all-round isn’t such a bad idea, after all.
Bats for early start
Meanwhile, the Indian captain has also voiced his opinion against a 7pm start for T20 matches at this time of the year.
“At times, we get a bit worried when there is a lot of dew during this time of the year. We do get venues where we get a lot of dew, and that is the time when the toss becomes very vital. It gets difficult for the spinners to bowl if the dew is too much.
“I always felt that this time of the year it is more tricky to pick the eleven because of the condition. That is why I always preferred for the game to start a bit earlier so that the dew factor did not have a huge impact on the game. It is not always that you get everything but there are some things that you have to go with,” he said.
The Barabati strip had some cracks and Dhoni said they don’t ask for tailor-made pitches, especially in limited-overs format.
“We don’t really ask too much when it comes to ODIs and T20Is. The associations prepare the best of the wickets they can and we come and play on those wickets. Usually, if you see over here, this is the sort of wickets we have been getting over the last few games. You don’t know whether the wicket is relaid or not, if they got enough chance whether it was rain or it was under the covers etc which all matter at the end of the day when it comes to preparation of the wicket.”