Coming into bat in at 29 for five, Mahendra Singh Dhoni produced one of the true gems one-day cricket has ever seen. If ever there was a captain’s knock, it is the one he produced against Pakistan on Sunday at Chennai - a splendid innings which gave India a fighting chance against their arch-rivals. Dhoni has often been termed as the ultimate finisher in One-Day Internationals (ODI) – a man with the Midas touch whose calculated gambles pay off. Statistics reveals that he is one of the best batsmen in ODIs in the recent times and it does show the kind of value he adds in the said format.
Dhoni has always been a floater in the batting order and boasts of good numbers at most positions. His spot has been determined according to the situation as he is a real game-changer for India. What allows him to adjust is his ability to change gears. He can play the sensible role – where he rotates strike and builds a platform for a late surge. He can also attack and play the big shots to provide the finishing touches. He started off as a slam-bang batsman who tore apart bowling attacks, but has mellowed down over the years. And that has made him a more dependable batsman.
Stats at various batting positions
The interesting thing is that Dhoni average bloats up as he moves higher in the batting order. Let us have a look at his numbers at each position in the line-up:
The Indian captain has been fantastic at numbers three, four and five. That is because it gives him a lot of time to adjust and plan his innings out. With a plenty of overs ahead, he can plan his innings and then blast off at the end. At number three, he has got those two memorable tons – the 183 not out against Sri Lanka and the 148 against Pakistan - with which he announced his arrival on the world stage.
There is a case for him to bat higher up the order considering the weight of these numbers. However, being the floater, he is always the best poker card. He can be played when the situation demands his presence the most. The most relevant example being the 2011 World Cup final – where he walked in to bat at number five in a high pressure run-chase.
Outstanding at No six
The No six spot is where Dhoni has played a majority of his innings. He averages a good 42.29 and has scored 16 fifties. Now, where does he stand in comparison with others who have batted at that spot in their respective careers?
Here are the relevant numbers: (arranged according average)
Qualification: 50 innings or more
Dhoni ranks third in terms of average among those who have batted over 50 times at No six. The one-day legend and perhaps the greatest finisher the game has seen – Michael Bevan is unchallenged at the top of the list. Sri Lankan Russel Arnold is second and Dhoni follows them in the third spot. These are some of the best middle-order batsmen one-day cricket has seen in recent times and Dhoni clearly has a place amongst them.
Responsible as captain
Captaincy has brought the best out of Dhoni as he has been more consistent and played more responsible knocks. As a leader, he had to show the way and he has done it exceedingly well in ODIs. There are two phases to Dhoni’s batting in ODIs -- the pre-captaincy era and the captaincy one.
Let us have a look at the stats:
As a captain, Dhoni’s consistency has touched a new pinnacle. In his 84 games without the responsibility, he averaged a good 44.23 and his strike-rate was a whooping 96.26. He took on the mantle in 2007 and then reworked his game to become a greater asset to the team. His average of 57.51 is emphatic proof of that. However, his strike-rate has dropped to 84.71. What is important is that he is winning games and is a reliable batsman in any situation.
The only thing Dhoni should be wary of is his tendency to take run-chases too late. It has worked for him on most occasions, but there is always a lurking danger of his plans backfiring.
When Dhoni burst on to the scene as a youngster with an awkward technique, not many would have given him a chance of being as successful as he is. It isn’t so much about ability, but the attitude and the will to succeed. The latest hundred at Chennai proves that point.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst, anchor and voice-over artist for the site's YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar's dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He has also participated on live TV talk-shows on cricket. Nishad can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_
First Published: December 31, 2012, 8:12 am