February 17, 2012

Dhoni and his mastery of the No. 6 slot

Over the last seven years, India's record at the No. 6 batting position is among the best, thanks largely to Dhoni

It's remarkable how different the Indian team looks when the format of the game changes from Tests to one-day internationals. The fielding becomes much sharper, the bowling more controlled and penetrative (witness the change in Vinay Kumar), the batting more authoritative, and the overall swagger and confidence of the team moves up a few notches. One of the most noticeable differences is the kind of influence the captain exerts on the game. In Tests, Dhoni's tactics seem reactive, and as importantly, his batting lacks any sort of assurance. In ODIs, he undergoes a remarkable transformation, especially with his batting: his struggle against quick bowling is replaced a quiet confidence, an arrogance almost, that he can get the job done no matter how stiff the target.

That was in evidence twice over the last week during the triangular CB Series: first with an unbeaten 44 that delivered a win against Australia, and then 58 not out in the tie against Sri Lanka. There have been question marks about his tendency to leave the charge till the very end, but given his success rate, it's difficult to argue with his methods: in his last 14 ODI innings he has remained not out nine times, and he averages 134.80 at a strike rate of 99.41, with seven fifties.

All but two of those 14 innings came from the pivotal No. 6 slot, a position that is a difficult one in ODIs, but one where Dhoni has done really well. His overall stats at that position - average of 43.28 at a strike rate of 82.06 - aren't quite as good as his career numbers (average 51.41 at a strike rate of 88.32), but that just illustrates how tough it is to bat at No. 6. In ODI history, only two batsmen - Michael Bevan and Mark Boucher - have scored more runs at that position, and Bevan is the only one with a significantly higher average.

Highest run-getters at No. 6 in ODIs
Batsman Innings Runs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s
Michael Bevan 87 3006 56.71 77.73 1/ 23
Mark Boucher 98 2387 29.83 82.59 0/ 15
MS Dhoni 71 2164 43.28 82.06 0/ 15
Tillakaratne Dilshan 87 2046 28.81 78.75 0/ 10
Michael Hussey 62 1917 40.78 88.21 1/ 11
Yuvraj Singh 59 1799 36.71 84.49 0/ 15
Jonty Rhodes 67 1728 32.00 82.28 0/ 8
Russel Arnold 59 1703 44.81 74.92 0/ 14

A striking aspect of Dhoni's batting in ODIs in general, and at the No. 6 position in particular, is the confidence he has in his ability. In Tests he is clearly a better batsman in home conditions, where the ball doesn't bounce or seam a great deal, but in ODIs he handles all sorts of conditions pretty well. His ODI average at home is slightly higher (55.39 at home, 49.83 away, and 47.28 at neutral venues), but the difference is nowhere near as much as it is in Tests (43 at home, 33.48 away).

At No. 6, the difference in his ODI numbers is even smaller - an average of 44.73 at home, and 42.38 away and at neutral venues. He also has excellent numbers at this position in Australia - 398 runs in ten innings at 79.60 - and England - 283 runs at 47.16. Sri Lanka is the only country where he has struggled, scoring 303 runs at 27.54. (Click here for Dhoni's ODI career summary at No. 6.)

Dhoni at No. 6 in ODIs, home and away
  Innings Runs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s
Home 28 850 44.73 83.82 0/ 5
Away* 43 1314 42.38 80.96 0/ 10
* Includes neutral venues

Dhoni has played more often at No. 6 in his ODI career than at any other position: out of his 179 innings, 71 have been played at that slot (compared with 45 at No. 5 and 26 at No. 7). His presence there has hugely lifted India's stats for that slot. In the seven years that Dhoni has been around (2005 onwards), the overall average for India's No. 6 batsmen is almost 39, at a strike rate of more than 85.

Out of India's 187 innings at that slot since the beginning of 2005, Dhoni has played 71, with Suresh Raina contributing another 49; no other batsman has more than 12.

During the period between 2000 and 2004, India's batting average at No. 6 was 28.71, and Yuvraj Singh was the only batsman who achieved a fair degree of success there, averaging 36.72 in 46 innings. Most of the others struggled: Robin Singh, for example, averaged 22.06 in 17 innings, while Mohammad Kaif played 15 innings at No. 6 at an average of 14. (Click here for the full list.)

India's stats at No. 6 in ODIs since Jan 2000
Period Innings Runs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s
Till Dec 2004 132 3072 28.71 78.04 0/ 20
Jan 2005 onwards 187 5062 38.93 85.43 2/ 32

Thanks largely to Dhoni, India's No. 6 stats are among the best for all teams over the last seven years. Only Australia - led by the two Michaels, Clarke and Hussey - have a marginally higher average and scoring rate.

On the other hand, the third team in the ongoing CB Series in Australia, Sri Lanka, have found this position a difficult one to fill adequately over the last seven years - their average of 25.89 is among the lowest. Tillakaratne Dilshan occupied that slot consistently between 2005 and 2008, but he averaged only 28. More recently, Angelo Mathews has shown promise, but he needs to improve on his consistency: he has four half-centuries in 27 innings, but also 14 dismissals for 15 runs or fewer. Sri Lanka wouldn't mind at all if he develops into a Russel Arnold; Arnold averaged almost 45 at No. 6, and is Sri Lanka's second-highest run-getter in that position.

No. 6 batsmen for each team in ODIs since Jan 2005
Team Innings Runs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s
Australia 168 4793 39.61 87.84 2/ 31
India 187 5062 38.93 85.43 2/ 32
New Zealand 124 3362 32.32 85.87 3/ 18
Pakistan 138 3844 32.03 85.78 3/ 19
South Africa 121 2557 28.09 87.96 0/ 14
Zimbabwe 126 2912 26.96 77.01 0/ 15
England 147 3337 26.48 82.47 2/ 13
Sri Lanka 166 3548 25.89 78.49 0/ 21
Bangladesh 143 3036 25.51 67.03 2/ 11
West Indies 141 2578 20.79 80.73 1/ 7

And finally, a look at the batsmen with the highest averages at No. 6 in the last seven years shows Dhoni and Hussey in very good light - they're the only two to play more than 60 innings at that position and maintain 40-plus averages.

Best batsmen at No. 6 in ODIs since Jan 2005 (Qual: 500 runs)
Batsman Innings Runs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s
Michael Clarke 26 752 47.00 88.88 0/ 6
MS Dhoni 71 2164 43.28 82.06 0/ 15
Michael Hussey 62 1917 40.78 88.21 1/ 11
Umar Akmal 27 885 40.22 87.97 1/ 5
Kevin O'Brien 20 620 36.47 91.44 1/ 3
Suresh Raina 49 1363 35.86 92.28 1/ 7
Owais Shah 20 591 34.76 84.54 1/ 3
Jacob Oram 31 848 32.61 88.05 1/ 5
Stuart Matsikenyeri 22 533 31.35 80.03 0/ 3
Shahid Afridi 24 686 29.82 135.03 2/ 2

S Rajesh is stats editor of ESPNcricinfo. Follow him on Twitter

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on February 18, 2012, 20:19 GMT

    Good Article, Dhoni though not in same leauge as Michael Bevan...Bevan was a class act...

  • Dummy4 on February 18, 2012, 19:45 GMT

    Great Article !! That should put to rest any ridiculous claims that the last couple matches should've been won sooner.. Dhoni continues to be one of the biggest match winners while chasing for India..

  • nalin on February 18, 2012, 15:59 GMT

    Since Dilshan left No.6 to open SL have struggled to find a finisher but I feel Mathews is developing into one. Before Arnold SL did have a great finisher in the form of RANATUNGA who manage to chase down targets over 100 at nearly run a ball to win matches they would have lost.

  • Dummy4 on February 18, 2012, 14:56 GMT

    ya dhoni is one of the if not the best odi and t20 finisher in the world with hussey , yuvi,ab delivers and also add to that he is also a wicket keeper without him even our odi batting line up is useless . suresh raina he cant finish matches or innigs what kind of a finisher he is i dont remember any such match after WC that he has done

  • Mishim on February 18, 2012, 11:10 GMT

    The number 6 position is not necessarily the finisher. Finishers can come as high up as number 4 in stronger batting lineups and and low down as 8 in less strong batting lineups. A finisher is a guy who can face something like the last 8-10 overs, play as a rapid accumulator in two thirds of those overs - scoring 1s, 2s and 3s and then unleash like a big hitter in the last third of those innings. Mike Hussey and JP Duminy are two of the best exponents of this role!

  • Dummy4 on February 18, 2012, 10:29 GMT

    dhoni is better than bevan becoz he bat and keep . he's better striker of a ball than bevan

  • Simon on February 18, 2012, 8:38 GMT

    Totally disagree with this article. He does not have the same qualties that many great players have had. He is not positive, never tears an attack apart and never dictates the game. When Dhoni plays for India he gives the opposition a huge advantage.

  • Dummy4 on February 18, 2012, 8:19 GMT

    Rajesh, it is not remarkable, it is plain cricketing common sense - Comparison of the Indian batting lineup who also double as fielding support for the Indian bowlers - Tests - Sehwag, Gambhir, Dravid, Sachin, Lakshman,Kohli ODI's - Sachin / Sehwag / Gambhir (2), Kohli, Sharma, Raina, Jadeja The ODI batting lineup has sharp cricketers who will run well while batting & field brilliantly, adding teeth to the bowling attack. Good running results in sharp singles & strike rotation reducing a bowler's chance to think 1 batsman out....also sharp singles keep the scoreboard moving & the batsman can bide his time for big shots. Test Batsmen - Can't run when batting, not very good fielders. Inability to run well eliminates the opportunity of sharp singles to rotate strike, allows opposition bowlers to plan the batsman out & increases the requirement to play risky shots to score ....in addition - their fielding inabilities demoralize our bowlers.

  • Vasantha on February 18, 2012, 8:15 GMT

    No.6s have the advantage of some not outs to raise their average but they also need top order failures to have the chance to shine.

  • ERROL on February 17, 2012, 19:36 GMT

    #6 use to be Clive Lloyde position with the keeper and then the four fast bowlers. Look how things have changed for WI

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