India v New Zealand, 3rd Test, Nagpur, 3rd day November 22, 2010

Dhoni's batting is an art in its own right

ESPNcricinfo staff
MS Dhoni's batting may not be aesthetically pleasing, but it is effective and exciting in its own way

Watching MS Dhoni is not aesthetically pleasing, but it is fascinating in its own way. Sometimes ugly is beautiful. If you have never watched a game of cricket, and you are told to pick up a block of wood and hit the small leather thing that's hurled at you, you are unlikely to make beautiful batting arcs; you would just get into a position that comes naturally to your body and hit the ball. Dhoni comes close to being a natural in that sense of the word.

He doesn't normally flick; he drags. He doesn't drive fluently; he shoves. He doesn't cut; he chops. He doesn't sweep; he hammers. He doesn't lean forward; he lunges. He doesn't defend; he stabs. He doesn't swing to the on side; he muscles and heaves. He doesn't upper cut; he carves. His most famous shot is the helicopter-whirl - a bottom-handed twirl that sends full deliveries from outside off to screaming fans beyond long-on. Even genial farmers might take offense if you call him agricultural, so we shall stick to natural. Is he effective? You bet he is, as he showed today.

It wasn't quite a crisis when he walked in, but three quick wickets had fallen. He chose to counterattack: he moved from 2 to 18 with four boundaries - a whipped-drag past mid-on, a carve over point, a shovelled hit over the covers, and a whipped drive through mid-off. A moment arrived, soon, which captured his style of batting perfectly: he opened the bat-face and steered a Tim Southee delivery that straightened after being angled in between the keeper and wide slip. It wasn't an edge. What wasn't clear was whether it was just a late adjustment to the straightening of the delivery or if he had the gap in mind? Dhoni often leaves you similarly confused about his intentions behind a shot. Often, there were cries of "catch it" from the New Zealanders when Dhoni hit them in the air, but it invariably climbed over a fielder or flew through a gap.

His contest with Daniel Vettori was interesting. In the second Test in Hyderabad, Vettori had done him in the flight; Dhoni had lunged forward to a ball that dipped on him and ended up scooping it to short extra cover. One wondered whether Vettori would look for a similar dismissal today. But it was not going to be as easy as tossing it up on a length. Vettori explored all options, but Dhoni was unmoveable. He ruled out lbws by rarely getting the front leg across. When he wasn't sure of the length, he went on to the back foot to defend. When he was sure it was short, he moved back and cut or punched. When Vettori pitched it fuller, he lunged forward to bunt. As he moved towards his century, Vettori, it seemed, had given up and started to bowl a leg-stump line from over the wicket. Soon, though, cramps forced Dhoni to bat with a runner and Vettori jumped at the opportunity. He went round the stumps and tossed one up on a length. Dhoni lunged out and scooped a return catch. By then, though, Dhoni's unorthodox style had pushed India towards a big lead.

Dhoni's real test will come on India's tour of South Africa. How he responds to crisis situations - he has often failed under pressure in recent Tests - on those pitches will define him as a Test batsman.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Anver on November 23, 2010, 6:01 GMT

    Whether orthodox or unorthodox runs he scored with Dravid at that stage was very crucial and helped India for a huge 1st inning total ......and u can see India is in a winning position right now !!!

  • karthikeyan on November 23, 2010, 5:48 GMT

    Guys think before Dhoni Era, India haven't got a wicket keeper who can score morethan 20 runs. Now it got changed we are seeing Dhoni takes all-round roles as Batsmen, Wicket Keeper and Captain as well. What you are expecting from this guy???

  • Vroom on November 23, 2010, 5:47 GMT

    its ok guys we needed some one to ensure that pressure is mantained on kiwis dats wat dhoni did. but there z notin 2 great about it, nothing to criticis also. but i agree with th last lins sayin real test is waitin in SA

  • Anand on November 23, 2010, 5:42 GMT

    Dont know how many people here understand the difference between one-day and test. in Test its not how fast you score counts but how much you score count without losing wicket. I wouldnt say i am great fan of dhoni's batting style but sure can say it is entertaining and effective. the one who says that dhoni hasn't saved matches..then that person really doesn't watch Indian cricket at least. Saying all that what always matter is who win and who losse.. Right now india is winning.Dravid is a true test batsman.. Dhoni is one of the great captain and effective batsman.. which make sure india gets where it suppose to .. over expectation n judgemental looks stupid when you guys dont see the fact and stats correctly ..

  • Ramesh on November 23, 2010, 3:46 GMT

    some body is saying "Specially the sharp description of an orthodox player like Mahendra Singh Dhoni".. this is a joke !! Dhoni is never an orthodox player !! now he scores 90's and books himself a sure seat for next two years !!

  • Dummy4 on November 23, 2010, 3:44 GMT

    @snowsnake:Well It seems u dont understand the role of a finisher in Tests and ODIs. In tests when VVS plays a spectacular innings in d final innings of d game u appreciate it. But when it is being done in an ODI, U say that d had been Decided in 35 overs itslef. Well My friend Dhoni in d second innings of d game where india has won d game, He has payed only 40 innings n amassed 2 centuries n 13 fifties at an avg of 115. He come at 5 or 6 in ODIs n it has never been an easy task for a batsman to get in n score effectively where d asking rate is 7 or above but he has done it so well in many occasions n had failed in a few.If it is VVS for India in tests then d role of him is played by MSD for india in ODIs..

  • kumar on November 23, 2010, 3:29 GMT

    @testisbest. i think u guys r like dhoni nd his bating.will see how he will bat in sa. u peopleee

  • Dylan on November 23, 2010, 2:54 GMT

    Takes a beating from everyone before this test, scores 98, and suddenly he's a god. I seriously don't get the Indian cricket fans and article writers.

  • Kapil on November 23, 2010, 2:46 GMT

    This is one of best articles I have read on Cricinfo, Specially the sharp description of an orthodox player like Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Remember he comes for batting after 5 down and he is captain of Team India and Keeper also in all three formats of the game. MSD you are doing really good and keep it up. @ Omar and Sunny Hasan, You guys need brain not only to read the article but to understand it also. Only a cricket lover can understand the beauty of words used.

  • uma on November 23, 2010, 2:22 GMT

    There is you are if the decision of declaration before sachin's double was wrong, then culprit is ganguly not dravid!. Ganguly would not have declared if he was captain that time. but he advised dravid to declare as the blame might go to dravid which was what happened actually.

    So we have two culprits actually one is ganguly for experimenting and playing with dravid's captaincy and putting balme on him. And second was tendulkar himself for showing his intent of hunger for personal records. U can see he was scoring so slow as he was close to double century. He should not have shown his frustration at the end of the day/match.

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