Former Indian captain Kapil Dev (Left) took an aggressive approach against the English in 1990 © Getty Images

MS Dhoni would need to bat well to help India avoid the follow on. He has to mix his approach between caution and aggression as India wouldn’t want to be put in again. Nishad Pai Vaidya writes about Dhoni’s possible approach.

India were 24 runs away from avoiding the follow on, when Kapil Dev took strike to Eddie Hemmings. At the other end was  No 11 Narendra Hirwani. So, what does Kapil do? He simply nails four sixes down the ground to avoid follow on. Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni can take heart from that performance 24 years ago and try to emulate a similar feat if not as spectacular.

With India needing 47 more to avoid follow on, Dhoni is the key at Southampton. England have done exceedingly well to put pressure on India on a good batting track. Dhoni now stands between England and a follow-on on Day Four of the third Test at Southampton. Batting on 51, Dhoni has only two more wickets in hand and has to somehow go about his job with the tailenders. It would be interesting to see the approach Dhoni takes when Day Four resumes.

Dhoni can shift gears at any stage in a game and is blessed with the ability to play any role. He can block it with a dodgy mindset and keep everything out or attack almost every other delivery. Both have their inherent risks. If you are too defensive, the pressure can build on you leading to wickets falling. And if you are too aggressive, you offer the other side a chance. What should a batsman do in such cases? Perhaps, taking a middle road is the best option.

On Day Three, Dhoni was quite sensible in his approach and was determined to stay there in the middle. He did pick the occasional boundary and helped the scoring rate. The 51 runs have come off 103 balls, which shows he has spent time in the middle. But, five fours and a six are proof that he hasn’t let opportunities go. So, it is imperative Dhoni plays with the same approach on Day Four and scores runs at a good rate. He needn’t take too many risks even if he wants to score, but can play his natural attacking strokes along the ground. He played the fast bowlers well and played the probing deliveries safely.

The only question is: How much will the tail back him? We know for a fact that Mohammed Shami can bat and has the temperament to fight it out in the middle. He had scored a fifty in the first Test, which also showed that he could hit the ball. Dhoni trusts his ability and did not mind exposing him to the final over of Day Four. But, if Shami gets out, Pankaj Singh comes in. Pankaj doesn’t boast of a good batting record, but has three fifties in First-Class cricket.. At the highest stage, it is a bit different though and would be too much to ask him to perform with the bat. Hence, Dhoni and Shami are India’s last hope.

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_45)