MS Dhoni needs to find suitable successor for the finishers’ role in Team India
Jasprit Bumrah, Dhawal Kulkarni and Barinder Sran in action during India tour of Zimbabwe 2016 © AFP

The finisher. The captain. The calm and composed one. The man responsible for all the happenings around Indian cricket. MS Dhoni has stood his ground for a long time with the top job of captaining the Indian cricket team since. Connoisseurs of cricket have penned down zillions of articles on him whenever the team wins or losses. His own form with the willow adds to the income of cricket experts, journalists and other high profile people from the field of cricket. With the Zimbabwe series ending, Dhoni got a chance to bat only twice, and that too in the T20Is — opportunities that were certainly not enough to judge his abilities. Also Read: MS Dhoni equals Ricky Ponting’s tally of most international matches as captain

In the first match of the shortest format of the game, Dhoni came into bat when the team was in a tricky situation. He stitched a vital partnership with Manish Pandey and took the mantle when the latter fell in the last overs. Sadly, it was Zimbabwe’s day: Dhoni remained unbeaten on 19 runs and the team lost by 2 runs. In the last T20I, the script became worse for a batsman of Dhoni’s caliber. This time the team was in dire needs of a Dhoni Special, but he failed to put bat to ball and went back for a 13-ball 9. It has been a while since the world has seen a typical swashbuckling innings from Team India’s limited-overs skipper.

What has gone awfully wrong?

The thing with Dhoni has been that the man has been the pillar of India’s innumerable chases and other wins. He has stitched important partnerships with Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli and others. More often than not, he has been the main destructor for India during many a famous chase since 2005.

On the other hand, the same has led to his downfall. So much has been seen and written on him that the young bowlers change and bring in a lot of variation up their sleeves and get the better of him. In South Africa’s tour of India in 2015, Kagiso Rabada defended 11 runs against Dhoni in the first ODI at Kanpur. Also Read: Dean Jones hails MS Dhoni as “one of the greatest”

In this series, Neville Madziva defended a mere 8 runs with Dhoni at the centre along with Rishi Dhawan. Though Dhawan was more at fault for wasting a few deliveries but Dhoni never looked anywhere close to his usual best since ball one. His strike rate has also gone down drastically. In IPL, his strike rate has come down from 148 in 2014 to 122 in 2015. In IPL 2016, his strike-rate remained 135, which is good but not up to his standards. Bowlers have managed to contain him with off-cutters and wide yorkers.

What should he do?

The only solution Dhoni has to come out of this situation is to bat up the order. With age not being in his side, he knows every failure is just going to hurt him severely. He had expressed his desire to bat at Nos. 4 or 5 in the ODI series against Bangladesh. He came at No. 4 in the last match and scored 69. He again came into bat at 4 in the third of the 5-match ODI series against South Africa at Rajkot, but this time scoring 47 off 85 balls. Also Read: Twitterati blast MS Dhoni for another failure with bat

Unfortunately, his finishing skills have not gone for a toss since he took the team home against Sri Lanka in 2013 in the Celkon Cup Tri-Nation series in West Indies. If he leaves the finishers job and bats at No. 5, he can groom the likes of Pandey as a finisher; if Ajinkya Rahane bats at No. 4 as there will anyway be no point in making Rahane bat lower down the order.

Conclusion:

Whatever has to happen has to happen soon. The more time Dhoni needs to fix this, the more problems he will cause for himself more than anyone else — for there are those desperate to point fingers at him. He needs to shed some responsibility off his tiring shoulders and focus on serving the nation as long as he feels.

The article first appeared in CricketCountry

(Aditya Sahay is a journalist with CricketCountry who is completely into sports and loves writing about cricket in general. He can be followed on Twitter at adisahay7)