'Need to play my shots whatever the situation' - Dhoni
MS Dhoni, one of the greatest ODI batsmen of all time and one of the highest-paid Twenty20 cricketers, believes his playing according to a situation has been hampering his performance as a batsman in Twenty20 cricket.
On a day when he was criticised for not condemning the Cuttack crowd for throwing bottles on to the field, Dhoni made an uncharacteristically revelatory and unprovoked remark about the T20 format. He was asked a question about his wish to bat higher in the order in limited-overs cricket, and how that might free him up, and Dhoni went on to speak about the format.
"It's slightly different in T20," Dhoni said. "It is a very short format. Personally I feel I use a bit too much of my brain in this format. It is very important that I keep myself a bit free, and go and play my shots.
"A lot of times when I go in to bat, usually it is the 16th or 17th over, or fourth or fifth over with four or five wickets down. I have that tendency to use my brain, 'Okay let's go to 130, that will be a good score.' Depending on that I play a bit slow initially, and then look for big shots. It has happened quite a few times in the past, but in this format I believe what I should do is I should go in and play the big shots irrespective of what the scenario is. Because that's what this format is all about." That can't be a glowing endorsement for the T20 game.
In ODIs, Dhoni feels some of India's best batsmen have failed to do well in the crucial finishing role. He knows he can't be around forever so he now wants somebody to have a go at it. "Maybe in the longer format I still need to do what I am doing," Dhoni said. "One of the reasons I want to bat slightly up in the order is so that somebody else takes that responsibility of batting at five or six. Six is a crucial position. Till they are not exposed to that position, we won't really know who is good in that position.
"We have played a lot of our good batsmen at that number, and most of them have not been successful. That is the reason we have been pushing them up the order. We have seen they have been doing really well and consistently up the order. So somebody has to take that responsibility of batting low. Maybe if I start batting at four or five, somebody else will have to do that position. Because in the coming years you need someone ready to do that job. It is something you need to have in your back-up plans."
Dhoni also made a suggestion that limited-overs games in India at this time of the year should be played at a better time because of the dew. Once again he said it unprovoked. The question was about his team's proud tradition of being able to come back in the limited-overs format, as they had done earlier this year in the World Cup after a winless tour of Australia until then.
"Definitely, that's what our aim is," Dhoni said. " Good thing is we have played a couple of games. One more before the start of the ODIs. We will try to get the most out of it, see what the best combination for ODIs is. Again we will have to figure out depending on the venues. I have always felt this time of the year it is more tricky to pick the XI because of the conditions. At times, the toss becomes crucial with the dew factors. That's why I prefer for the game to start slightly early so that the dew factor doesn't become a big factor in the game. But you don't always get what you want. There are some things you have to go through."
It is unknown if Dhoni has actually made such a suggestion to the board.
Dhoni has been in an expressive mood since the start of the season. After the first defeat he spoke about an umpiring decision at the post-match presentation, and also told a journalist he should have watched the match instead of asking Dhoni what went wrong.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo