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Dhoni's success formula in ODIs

His tendency to hit the ball straight, and his ability to play the waiting game, have been the keys to his superb run as an ODI batsman in the last 20 months

S Rajesh

January 19, 2013

Comments: 30 | Text size: A | A

MS Dhoni drives one powerfully, India v Pakistan, 2nd ODI, Kolkata, January 3, 2013
In ODIs since the 2011 World Cup, MS Dhoni has scored at less than a run a ball till the 45th over, but at almost 11 per over in the last five © BCCI
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Plenty has gone wrong for MS Dhoni in the last 20 months: India have been thumped in overseas Tests, and then lost some more at home too; his captaincy moves have been questioned; and his batting form in Tests has been pretty ordinary - 958 runs in 33 innings at 33.03 - and those stats were propped up by home runs against New Zealand and West Indies. There's one aspect of his game, though, that has remained untouched by all these recent debacles - his ODI batting has been quite spectacular recently, even if all his runs haven't led to victories.

Since the end of the 2011 World Cup, Dhoni has played 27 ODI innings, scored 1166 runs, and averaged 83.28 at a strike rate of 92.39. The average has been helped along by 13 not-outs, but even allowing for that, these are amazing numbers: in these 27 innings he has gone past 50 on 11 occasions, and scored a century when coming in to bat at 29 for 5 in seaming conditions against a potent Pakistan attack. He has guided the team when wickets have fallen around him, consolidated during the middle stages of the innings, and been there during the slog overs, performing each role to perfection.

There has been criticism about him batting too far down the order at Nos. 6 or 7 - he has batted higher only three times during this period - but it can also be argued that he has given the specialist batsmen in the team the best opportunity to build their innings. That he has been left with so much to do is a damning indictment of the lack of form of the top-order batsmen. In these 30 matches that Dhoni has played, he has scored 16.38% of bat runs scored by all Indian batsmen, a pretty high percentage for someone who bats outside the top five in the 50-over format.

Dhoni is one of 11 batsmen to score more than 1000 ODI runs during this period, and while his average is easily the highest, only Suresh Raina has a higher strike rate among these 11.

Batsmen who have scored 1000+ ODI runs since May 2011
Batsman Innings Runs Average Strike rate 100s/ 50s
MS Dhoni 27 1166 83.28 92.39 1/ 10
Virat Kohli 41 1997 55.47 89.79 8/ 8
Alastair Cook 32 1355 46.72 85.59 4/ 9
Kumar Sangakkara 44 1751 41.69 75.15 3/ 11
Gautam Gambhir 30 1098 37.86 83.30 2/ 9
Suresh Raina 40 1183 35.84 94.94 0/ 10
Mahela Jayawardene 43 1426 34.78 81.67 1/ 12
Mohammad Hafeez 35 1176 34.58 72.19 3/ 6
Tillakaratne Dilshan 48 1500 33.33 81.92 4/ 7
Dinesh Chandimal 43 1215 32.83 74.53 1/ 9
Upul Tharanga 38 1044 28.21 73.10 1/ 9

The table below demonstrates how cleverly Dhoni paces his innings in an ODI. He has often spoken about the importance of not going for big shots too early in the innings, and of holding back the charge till as late as possible; the numbers below show he practises what he preaches. In the 419 balls he has played during the first 30 overs of an innings, Dhoni has scored only 245, a run rate of 3.50 per overs. He has played out 250 dot balls during this period (60% of the total deliveries he faced), but has been dismissed only three times. Most of his runs in this time have come in singles. The break-up reads thus: 130 ones, 23 twos, and a three, with only 66 runs coming in fours or sixes.

Between overs 30 and 40, his run rate goes up, but not by all that much, to 4.05 per over. Out of 367 deliveries, he has played out 210 dots (57%), and has still scored mostly in singles and twos (119 and 14), with only 88 runs coming in fours or sixes. Between the 41st and 45th overs, the dot-ball percentage drops to 42 (97 out of 229), while the scoring rate also goes up to very nearly a run a ball. However, even during this period he has generally resisted the temptation to cut loose.

It's only in the last five overs that he has completely broken the shackles, striking the ball to all parts and scoring at nearly 11 runs per over. In this phase of innings, 60% of his runs have come in fours or sixes, and his dot-ball percentage drops to 22. It can be argued that he sometimes leaves the onslaught for too late, but Dhoni has the numbers to back his method.

Dhoni and the art of pacing an ODI innings (since May 2011)
Overs Runs Balls Dismissals Average Run rate 4s/ 6s
0-30 245 419 3 81.67 3.50 12/ 3
30.1-40 247 367 5 49.50 4.03 16/ 4
40.1-45 227 229 2 113.50 5.94 14/ 7
45.1-50 447 247 4 111.75 10.85 43/ 16


MS Dhoni's ODI wagon-wheel since the 2011 World Cup, January 17, 2013
Dhoni's wagon wheel shows he has scored plenty of runs in front of the wicket © ESPNcricinfo Ltd
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Dhoni's scoring methods also indicate he has worked out his percentages well. Of the 1166 runs he has scored since the last World Cup, 810 have come in front of the wicket (nearly 70%), while 334 have been scored in the V between mid-off and mid-on. On the other hand, he has scored only 86 in the V behind the wicket - between third man and fine leg - which shows his preference for playing with the full face of the bat, rather than attempting cute angles. He has also struck more than 50% of his sixes (16 out of 30) in the V between long-on and long-off, with 12 more coming in the midwicket region. (See wagon-wheel graphic.)

His scoring patterns against different types of bowlers also shows his inclination to play the percentages. Against right-arm spin, Dhoni has scored at only 3.88 runs per over, but he hasn't been dismissed even once. He has played some high-quality offspinners during this period - Saeed Ajmal (36 runs off 77 balls), Mohammad Hafeez (48 off 72) and Graeme Swann (77 off 99) being the main ones - and Dhoni has been sensible enough to respect their skills, preserving his wicket so that he is around to take advantage of other, weaker bowlers. (It's an approach that a batsman like Virender Sehwag would do well to adopt.)

Against left-arm spin, too, Dhoni has been pretty circumspect, scoring 40 from 70 balls off Xavier Doherty - who is also the only spinner to dismiss him in ODIs during this period - and 13 from 27 off Rangana Herath. Against Samit Patel, whose skills as a left-arm spinner aren't in the top league, Dhoni has scored more freely, taking 59 off 58. His overall scoring rate against spin is also relatively low because spinners bowl primarily in the middle overs, when Dhoni's main focus is usually on preserving his wicket.

The quicker bowlers have gone for more runs, though right-arm seamers have also dismissed him 13 times. Tim Bresnan has dismissed Dhoni three times - the only bowler to do so - but has also gone for 99 runs in 79 balls (7.51 runs per over). Jade Dernbach has conceded 95 off 100, but has dismissed Dhoni twice, while Lasith Malinga's two wickets have cost him 68 off just 53 balls. The bowler who has struggled the most against Dhoni is Steven Finn, going for 85 from 59 balls, without ever dismissing him.

Most fast bowlers will fancy their chances against Dhoni in Tests, especially overseas, but in ODIs Dhoni has tackled them pretty effectively. Batting outside Asia remains a tricky issue for Dhoni - he averages only 33.13 in chases outside Asia, compared to 63.89 in Asia - but given his current form, he is India's best batting bet in ODIs regardless of the conditions.

Dhoni against each type of bowler in ODIs since May 2011
Bowler type Runs Balls Dismissals Average Run rate 4s/ 6s
Right-arm pace 757 713 13 58.23 6.37 73/ 15
Right-arm spin 200 309 0 - 3.88 2/ 9
Left-arm spin 113 156 1 113.00 4.34 1/ 3
Left-arm pace 96 84 0 - 6.85 9/ 3

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

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Posted by alwaysindia on (January 22, 2013, 17:13 GMT)

all those who are claiming dhoni is weak outside subcontinent, let me tell you that he scored huge runs in eng 2011 without being dismissed and scored runs in australia too. HE IS THE BEST ODI PLAYER EVER. regarding tests his avg is 38 and matt prior is 42. not a big

Posted by India_boy on (January 22, 2013, 9:35 GMT)

MSD is a total class act, Im a big fan of him and even then I admit that he is questionable on seaming tracks but then which batsman doesnt have a flaw? Clarke scored 1500+ runs last year and couldn't do anything when pitch started assisting the bowlers, team tottering at 40/9? on spinning pitches, most of these "class" batsmen fall by the wayside. Today, every single batsman has a glaring loophole in his batting, MSD has one too, but he's still captaining(with mixed results albeit) and leading the team with exemplary performances in all 3 formats plus IPL. Hats off MSD!

Posted by Al_Bundy1 on (January 21, 2013, 21:46 GMT)

Dhoni is the ultimate ODI player. In his short career he has achieved more than 10dulkar in his 23 years of playing Odi. Granted tendulya is better in tests, but Dhoni is better in ODI.

Posted by Temuzin on (January 21, 2013, 21:03 GMT)

Very well said Suniljoseph. Dhoni is simply amazing The player with greatest IMPACT.

Posted by MAK123 on (January 21, 2013, 8:47 GMT)

Never seen a batsman hitting an out side the off stick ball to mid-wicket for a six! truly a genius

Posted by Liquefierrrr on (January 21, 2013, 5:22 GMT)

This is an amazing article about an amazing player. It is clear that Dhoni has a system, and as an armchair fan you suspect that it is along these lines, but to have it broken down into such succinct, easy to follow compartments is almost as amazing as the MSD's feats themself.

I'm an Australian fan, and pine for a player like MSD. We have the very consistent Clarke, and had the highly adaptable M Hussey, but Dhoni is the modern-day Michael Bevan, with his scoring rate being considerably better and his high-scores being considerably higher.

He has come under fire from some small but vocal quarters, even from within his own team by the considerably less talented Gambhir, however time and again his method has worked, and has worked from some of the most dire situations one could imagine. His century, and the pacing of it, against Pakistan recently was breathtaking. It is like he has an inbuilt computer whereby he simply has a purer understanding of how to bat and when to up the ante.

Posted by Beazle on (January 20, 2013, 16:18 GMT)

The great Viv Richards was the greatest of all one day batsmen. Imagine the carnage he would have wrought with modern bats !

Posted by   on (January 20, 2013, 12:40 GMT)

Wah. Dhoni's number game.

Posted by alarky on (January 20, 2013, 12:36 GMT)

I don't it's right when people say that Dhoni is a "Lower Order Batsman". Dhoni is the best "All Round Batsman" India has ever produced in ODI cricket. He bats "IN ANY POSITION" and scores runs; and even more importantly, nearly every time he does so he wins the match for India. It was he and Yuvraj who won the 2011 World Cup.

Posted by realfan on (January 20, 2013, 11:25 GMT)

@Tal_Botvinnik dude you are talking as if being not out is a crime .... if it is so then michel beven is the biggest criminal....no disrespect to beven though...... if some batsmen is notout many times it simply suggest his ability to win matches by staying till the end, and it shows how he will value his wicket... and on the other hand it suggest that opposite nations bowlers inability to take his wicket.... so dont come with such nonsense arguments ..... i agree Test cricket is best( and i an Club level test player and i am a keeper too ) i know Dhoni's technique is not sound in TEST cricket...... but this article is about DHONI'S SUCCESS FORMULA IN ODI'S.... not in TEST's.....

cricinfo publish.....

Posted by Yarms on (January 20, 2013, 4:24 GMT)

Brilliant lower order player . In 50 years of watching cricket around the world only Gilchrist comes to mind in terms of impact in the lower order.. But then he ended up opening the batting. ...... All you Dohni Neigh Sayers ... Remember theses good times and form and enjoy as lean time will come to haunt him... That is when he will need the support and the confidence of the Indian public. Or. Will you all forsake him ???????????

Posted by Tal_Botvinnik on (January 20, 2013, 2:17 GMT)

@28041991: an average of 42 with plenty of "not outs" don't help (also helped by the fact that in the AUS 3 series he scored plenty against SL).You see bowlers don't get to probe the batsman's weakness in the late overs.Thats why Test cricket is the real test

@torsha: do you know how to hold a bat?

Posted by KK47 on (January 19, 2013, 22:54 GMT)

His scoring rate against right arm spin is little baffling considering the fact that he likes taking on the spinners in long-on mid-wicket region. I have witnessed this in recent matches that he struggles to get singles against off-spin. Probably he is trying to curb is natural instinct of going after offies in fear of losing his wicket. This also speaks about Indian top and middle order failing to give him necessary platform to launch his attacking game. All said and done, undoubtedly one of the best all-rounders ever especially in ODI cricket.

Posted by suniljoseph on (January 19, 2013, 20:08 GMT)

Well, Dhoni in not one of the best finishers in ODI cricket today. infact, he is the best batsman in ODI's of current era. I am a Pakistani and I prefer my team over any other team in the world but still I rate him the best batsman in the world and if we consider his test statistics they are also not bad either averaging 38 for his career and carrying the load of captaincy. The problem is Indian bowling and not Dhoni's captaincy. He is the captain who made India No. 1 team in ICC test cricket rating. And today India has become the No. 1 team in ICC ODI rating. Moreover, he also brought two world cups to India. What else the Indian people want from him.

Posted by jitesharya on (January 19, 2013, 18:17 GMT)

I might be come out as a bit cynical saying this, but not many players/teams can do well if you leave all the shots to the last 5 or 10 overs. His numbers- First 30 overs- 3.50 rpo 30-40 overs- 4.05 rpo Considering we play lot of matches at home, these don't look too great. Also, we need to see how it impacts other batsmen. If his partner feels the pressure to up the scoring rate and gets out, it's not that good. Playing cricket at any level, one would know how unnerving and unsettling it is when our batting partner is scoring at a very low rate. This might work well for Dhoni's numbers and his averages, but it may not be the best method for every other player in the team. I have seen a few matches being won but a lot more being lost thus.

Posted by AnasK on (January 19, 2013, 17:14 GMT)

Great article! MSD is really great player to have in team. He is one of the best finishers at the moment in the world.

Posted by torsha on (January 19, 2013, 13:46 GMT)

It is very laughable to see that people who don't know how to hold a bat talking about MSD's batting technique. MSD is a class player. One of the best!

Posted by realfan on (January 19, 2013, 13:39 GMT)

@Tal_Botvinnik

perhaps dhoni is more effective in non indian conditions...... here are stats apart from asia in OCEANIA, EUROPE, AFRICA and AMERICA he has scored 1857 runs at an average of 42....which is very good in Odi ........ and if your blindfolded slogging wont work in these conditions then dhoni is not slogger..... he is the perfect finisher for the game in ODI.....

and this article is about his ODI succes and not test.... so your whinning is irrelevant .......

Posted by anupamraj114 on (January 19, 2013, 13:34 GMT)

Being d captain of India wid population of 100 millions....billions of people waiting for an opportunity to criticize d team....jst imagine how much pressure he goes thru..nd to all those guys saying Dhoni plays well only in India....jst go and check his stats in aus nd eng....his only blemish is his record in sa...

Posted by   on (January 19, 2013, 13:02 GMT)

Another typical whinge by an Indian reporter regarding Indian player...

Posted by im52923 on (January 19, 2013, 12:12 GMT)

No doubt he is a good Cricketer and a very calm player under pressure. Even being Pakistani I love him bat, not stylish but most effective specially when india is in trouble or chasing.

Posted by ansram on (January 19, 2013, 7:56 GMT)

Dhoni's technique is ugly, but nevertheless he is a very effective ODI bat.

Posted by Semoli on (January 19, 2013, 6:43 GMT)

I don't understand the vitriol, these are his home fans. His tactical nous as a test captain, his ability to judge cricketing talent might be questionable, but his role as a finisher in one days is top class.

Posted by neo-galactico on (January 19, 2013, 6:25 GMT)

Dhoni has been awesome, and without diminishing his stats I'd have preferred the qualification to be lowered to about 500 runs. RSA hasn't played enough ODIs in the period so Lord Hash and AB who have been the top ranked ODI players don't feature in those stats and they have very good numbers too.

Posted by dinosaurus on (January 19, 2013, 5:55 GMT)

These comments amaze me. I'm not Indian but I think Dhoni is a very effective one-day batsman. The "finisher" role is very important, and it's not easy either. Dhoni is consistently effective, especially in India, yes, but that's not a crime!!

Posted by CricketBlog on (January 19, 2013, 5:40 GMT)

Those 3 sixes against left arm fast bowler. Two of the three were hit against Muhammad Irfan. :)

Posted by   on (January 19, 2013, 5:37 GMT)

Also, a damning stat is the overseas/subcontinental record.. Despite the numbers, quite an over-rated player and captain.. I admire captains like Mahela, Misbah and Stephen Fleming (from the past) They have achieved a lot more with a team of few stars..

Posted by Tal_Botvinnik on (January 19, 2013, 5:36 GMT)

Dhoni is a slogger who come in the late overs and slash at everything to maintain a batting average of 50.Most of his top-order and lower order runs are made in India where pitches are Taylor-made for blind-folded slogging.his test average shows how weak and how weak his technique is.In India all the MoM should go directly to him even if he make 35 odd on a batting pitch

Posted by   on (January 19, 2013, 5:05 GMT)

Dhoni is ultimately the best..

Posted by Altamash.Baig on (January 19, 2013, 4:45 GMT)

No mention of Dhoni's most effective technique: Drop down the order when wickets are falling and promote himself up the order when batting is easy.

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S Rajesh Stats editor Every week the Numbers Game takes a look at the story behind the stats, with an original slant on facts and figures. The column is edited by S Rajesh, ESPNcricinfo's stats editor in Bangalore. He did an MBA in marketing, and then worked for a year in advertising, before deciding to chuck it in favour of a job which would combine the pleasures of watching cricket and writing about it. The intense office cricket matches were an added bonus.

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