Dhoni needs to improve his strike-rate in T20 Internationals

Indian captain MS Dhoni’s career strike-rate in T20 Internationals is 109.77 which is low compared to his overall strike rate of 130.02 in T20 cricket (which includes domestic, IPL, CLT20 etc) © Getty Images

 

By Nishad Pai Vaidya

 

A change of format didn’t halt India’s woes Down Under as they slumped to a 31-run defeat against a new-look Australian side. The defeat wasn’t a total surrender. A closer inspection unfolds an array of errors made by the Indians which sealed their ultimate fate.

A small error in the course of a T20 game can result in terrible consequences for the team committing them.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni admitted his decision to put Australia in to bat backfired. Since it was the first international game at the Stadium Australia in Sydney, the Indian captain may have been circumspect about the nature of the wicket and decided to chase a total. However, with the short boundaries and a good batting line-up, he could have backed his side and opted to bat first. There is always the extra pressure while chasing and that could have been avoided by selecting the other alternative. The batsmen may have had more freedom to express themselves and India may have ended up with a good total.

The decision to play two spinners was another baffling call. With the straight boundaries being very short and the threat of rain looming large, it was obvious that the spinners would have struggled to make an impact. The ball wouldn’t have been easy to grip and the short boundary would have been a mouth-watering proposition for hitters of the calibre of David Warner, David Hussey and Mathew Wade.

 

As one of the commentators mentioned, the two specialist spinners along with the all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja limited India’s options. Had they played a third seamer, it may have added a lot more variety to the attack. India could have considered giving Irfan Pathan a game or Umesh Yadav, whose pace would have complimented VinayKumar and Praveen Kumar.

 

The biggest positive to emerge from India’s defeat is Vinay Kumar’s performance. With his military medium-pace, the margin for error is minimal as a small deviation from the appropriate channel can prove expensive. He was taken to the cleaners initially, but came back very well to bowl a nagging line. He doesn’t move the ball like Praveen, which further narrows down that margin and makes it an even bigger task. The ploy of bowling full around the off-stump paid rich dividends and brought respectability to his figures. There are times when he can be expensive and if he can maintain the consistency he displayed at Sydney, his contributions to India’s cause would become more significant.

 

Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli looked good and laid a good platform, but wickets fell in a heap thereafter. There was nobody who could anchor the innings, and although Dhoni scored 48 not out, he didn’t time his knock very well. The boundaries at the fag end of his knock propelled his strike-rate and camouflaged his slow start to an extent. Had he adjusted to the conditions a little quicker, India may have come closer toAustralia’s challenge.

 

It is true that wickets were falling at regular intervals and someone needed to stick around and stabilise the innings. Nevertheless, one needs to score around the run-a-ball mark to keep the scoreboard ticking through the tough phase. Dhoni failed to do that as he was on 15 off 25 balls at one stage. Such a slow start hampers the run-chase and although there were a few big hits later, it wasn’t enough to undo the damage done earlier.

 

A look at Dhoni’s T20 Internationals shows a relatively low career strike-rate of 109.77. In contrast, his overall strike rate in T20 cricket (includes domestic, IPL, CLT20 etc) is a fantastic 130.02. There are no doubts about his abilities as a destructive batsman as his One-Day International (ODI) and T20 record suggests. However, in T20 internationals, he hasn’t been able to maintain the same flow.

 

Some of the knocks Dhoni has played for India in T20 Internationals have been thrilling and have highlighted his true ability. These encouraging displays have been mixed with the other ordinary ones which have dented his overall numbers. The average of 27.78 is fair enough, but strike-rate is what matters in the shortest format. He has batted at all positions from No 3 to No 7, which indicates that he has been the floater in the line-up. He certainly needs to correct this anomaly and deliver the goods for India as a demolisher with the bat in the shortest format of the game.

 

As India head to Melbourne, they have to ensure that they avoid going on another gaffe-spree. A win would certainly boost the morale of the side and push them on to a better mindset going into the tri-series. If the weather conditions are similar to Sydney, playing two specialist spinners wouldn’t help. On the other hand, the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) being a big ground, the tweakers may be amongst the wickets with batsmen charging at them and holing out in the deep.

 

These small blunders may prove fatal in T20 cricket. On the other side of the coin, one or two brilliant performances can turn the tide in your favour. A good wicket-taking spell or a fantastic knock could win you a game and India would be hoping for a performance along those lines!

 

(Nishad Pai Vaidya, a 21-year-old law student, is a club and college-level cricketer. His teachers always complain, “He knows the stats and facts of cricket more than the subjects we teach him.”)