MS Dhoni in action against Pakistan during his innings of 148 runs in Faisalabad, 2006. This was the first and the last time he scored a Test hundred overseas © AFP
MS Dhoni in action against Pakistan during his innings of 148 runs in Faisalabad, 2006. This was the first and the last time he scored a Test hundred overseas © AFP

 

By Nishad Pai Vaidya

 

“Tigers at home and lambs abroad,” is a stinging criticism Indian cricket has faced for a long time now. It’s a criticism that one heard yet again after Team India crashed to its fifth consecutive Test overseas defeat.

 

And if one were to zero in on individuals in the batting line-up, skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s home-away mismatch is most galling. In fact, the captain will be the first to admit that his overseas track record and especially outside of the subcontinent is an embarrassment for someone with proven destructive abilities in the abridged version of the game.

 

The serious mismatch of Dhoni’s home-away track record

 

T

Runs

Avg

100s

50s

Highest

Home

30

1634

43.00

4

11

144

Away

35

1802

34.00

1

12

148

Overall

65

3436

37.75

5

23

148

 

The difference in averages at home and away highlights the main point in contention. Furthermore, the only overseas hundred of his 65-Test career came in the subcontinent. He may have scored 12 fifties, but such performances have been few and far in between.

 

We one look at his numbers in countries where the degree of difficult in scoring runs is more challenging, that record takes further beating.

 

Dhoni’s record in England, Australia and South Africa

 

T

Runs

Avg

100s

50s

Highest

Australia

5

170

17.00

0

0

38

England

7

429

39.00

0

4

92

South Africa

5

283

31.44

0

1

90

 

The record in Australia and South Africa does not do justice to his ability. The average in Australia, in particular, is very poor. In England, Dhoni has had his moments but the below par show in 2011 has dented those numbers. Like Virender Sehwag, Dhoni has defied the skeptics and showed that he can survive with his own style. However, the performances away from home (England, South Africa and Australia in particular) leave a lot to be answered.

 

In the modern game, wicket-keepers cannot hope to survive at the top for long with a single skill. They are expected to bring value with the bat. Like Dhoni, many international ‘keepers bat at No 7 seven as it helps provide the right balance to a team.

 

The No 7 slot – comparative figures

 

We must look at Dhoni’s record at number seven and where he stands amongst other players (includes all-rounders). This list is arranged according to the averages. (Qualification: 50 or more Test matches)

 

T*

Runs

Avg

100s

50s

Highest

Adam Gilchrist

82

3948

46.44

12

18

204*

Alan Knott

61

2870

41.00

5

20

135

Imran Khan

51

1845

34.81

2

11

123

Jeff Dujon

55

2113

33.53

4

10

139

MS Dhoni

55

2217

31.22

2

15

110

 

*Only includes innings where they batted at No 7

 

The likes of Adam Gilchrist and Alan Knott have shown that it is possible to score consistently down the order. In fact, Imran Khan’s record is fantastic considering the fact that he was a genuine all-rounder who also captained the side.

 

If we look at the records of wicket-keepers at No7 batting away from home, then the records of Knott and Gilchrist gets even better. Dhoni’s record, in comparison, drops further.

 

Here is the list according to averages. (Qualification: 20 or more Test matches)

 

Batting records of wicket-keepers at number seven away from home

 

T

Runs

Avg

100s

50s

Highest

Alan Knott

32

1731

48.08

2

14

106*

Adam Gilchrist

29

1502

46.93

6

4

204*

Jeff Dujon

29

1070

30.57

1

6

139

MS Dhoni

32

1307

29.04

0

9

92

Ridley Jacobs

33

1126

28.15

0

8

96*

 

Dhoni is no ordinary player as he has shown on a number of occasions. An overseas average of 29.04 at No 7 is clearly unacceptable for someone blessed with his kind of batting talents.

 

The biggest factor in Dhoni’s struggle abroad has been his change in approach. Off late he looks a lot more conservative at the crease which isn’t his natural game. He needs the right mixture of caution and aggression instead of drifting towards a fully conservative approach. The two knocks in England earlier this year support this observation. Dhoni counter-attacked the bowling and played an aggressive game which got him the runs. In other outings on that tour, he was tentative and defensive – a tactic that backfired.

 

In the second innings at Melbourne on Thursday, he walked down the track and hit a six early on. One felt that he was ready to unleash his unique repertoire of strokes, but once Sachin Tendulkar was dismissed, he yet again got into the rut.

 

Dhoni seriously needs to do some rethinking about his approach. He has the calmness of mind to approach the problem he is facing with a clutter-free mind. If Dhoni can translate his success at home in matches overseas, India’s lower order can acquire a dangerous dimension. And despite the poor overseas record, there are compelling reasons to believe that he can do it.

 

(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.”)