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MS Dhoni dispels doubts about his batting in overseas conditions with gritty knock against England in 5th Test at The Oval

MS Dhoni played a sparkling 82 © Getty Images
MS Dhoni scored 82 and was India’s saviour in the first innings at The Oval © Getty Images

Despite all the doubts over his batting in overseas conditions, MS Dhoni has shown remarkable grit and fight in the ongoing tour to England. At The Oval, he recorded his fourth fifty of the series and also became India’s most successful batsman during the last two overseas tours. Nishad Pai Vaidya writes about Dhoni’s recent performances.

There was a lot of talk about MS Dhoni’s overseas credentials ahead of the tour to England. It wasn’t just about his captaincy, but his below-par batting record outside the sub-continent that was subject to some intense debate. However, on the tour to England, Dhoni’s character has triumphed in the face of adversity and has set an example for his young crop of batsmen. With an idiosyncratic technique — which isn’t classical by any means — it is Dhoni’s mental strength that has helped him overcome the odds and record a good personal performance.

Dhoni had a nightmarish series in 2011, apart from the twin fifties in the third Test at Edgbaston. Those knocks were attacking and saw Dhoni unleash his array of strokes to counter-attack. In the other games, he was either too cautious or showed a lack of patience. Three years down the line, Dhoni combined temperance and aggression to find the perfect balance between the two. In challenging circumstances, he has shown remarkable grit to fight it out, even when the other batsmen around him fell like nine-pins.

Consider this: In the last two Tests, Dhoni walked out in hopeless situations when India had lost four early wickets. At Manchester, Dhoni came in at eight for four and battled for his 71. At The Oval, he hit 82 after coming in at 26 for four. In both innings, he was among the last men to be dismissed, and struck crucial partnerships down the order. Though he took his time to get in, he went for his shots later in the innings.

The remarkable statistic is that Dhoni has been India’s most successful batsman on the last two overseas tours. This despite all the talk about his batting. A ton is yet to come, but he has five fifty-plus scores, which is the most by any player in that period. Here are India’s leading run-scorers since the start of the tour to New Zealand:

Player

M*

R

Ave

100s

50s

HS

MS Dhoni

7

466

38.83

0

5

82

Ajinkya Rahane

7

457

41.54

2

2

118

Murali Vijay

7

448

34.46

1

2

146

Shikhar Dhawan

5

337

33.7

1

1

115

Virat Kohli

7

328

27.33

1

1

105*

*includes the first innings of the fifth Test at The Oval.

Dhoni has thus shown that he can bat overseas if he applies himself in the middle. It isn’t so much about his ability, but the desire to fight it out and produce the results for his team. The above table reflects the collective failure of the Indian batting. Dhoni has done better than most, and an average of 38.83 is good for someone who comes in lower down the order.

The latest performances also strengthens the argument for Dhoni to bat at No 6. In 24 innings at No 6, he averages 58.00 and has scored two tons and eight fifties. In 12 innings overseas at No 6, he averages 63.40. Thus, even if India go in with the seven batsmen strategy, it is important for Dhoni to bat at No 6 for that invariably gets the best out of him.

However, questions over his captaincy in Tests remain, with numerous former players criticizing his recent decisions. Dhoni does have work to do on that front, if he gets another chance to lead India way from home in Test cricket.

Catch all the coverage of India’s tour to England here

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_44)

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