England v India, ICC World Twenty20, Lord's June 13, 2009

Dhoni's loss of form worries India

India need to decide where to bat Dhoni and hit upon a batting order that will carry them through the Super Eights
27

It doesn't take much to go wrong for a team to lose a Twenty20 match. India lost to West Indies at Lord's primarily because their opponents, led by Dwayne Bravo's all-round excellence, played a vastly superior game. And yet, in the post-mortem of the defeat, there emerged one key that India have to acknowledge and address before their must-win Super Eight game on Sunday: The struggling form of their captain - and most versatile batsman - and how to compensate for it.

India's strength is that every one of their players is capable of winning a match through individual brilliance. Even the loss of one of the world's most dangerous openers was overcome by a middle-order batsman making the transition to the top of the order seamlessly. They have tried to fortify that advantage with flexibility by attempting to shuffle the middle order according to how the openers fare.

Between Rohit Sharma and Gautam Gambhir, Rohit has been the more aggressive batsman and so India have sent in MS Dhoni at No. 3 should Gambhir fall first to steady one end while Rohit attacks at the other. And if Rohit should be dismissed first, like against West Indies, Suresh Raina will take up the attacking role at No. 3. It's an excellent plan, for a fluid batting order keeps the opposition guessing and batsmen versatile enough to slot into different roles are valuable in the Twenty20 format. The problem, however, is Dhoni's loss of form.

Dhoni has batted in various positions from No. 2 to 8 and, when in form, he's played different roles - from sheet anchor to aggressor - successfully. He even considered opening in the World Twenty20 before offering Rohit the job in Virender Sehwag's absence. In recent times, Dhoni has taken up the responsibility of guiding the innings, holding one end up, scoring at a run-a-ball, letting the other shot-makers attack before joining them.

India have had to manage without a significant contribution from Dhoni so far in this tournament. He struggled during the IPL and carried that indifferent form to England, scoring 6, 9*, 26 and 14 during the warm-ups and group matches. Dhoni batted at No. 3 during those matches ahead of more in-form batsmen. What has hurt India more than Dhoni's lack of runs is his inability to provide any sort of momentum to the innings despite spending adequate time at the crease. He's changed his bats often while in the middle, but not found his timing with any of them.

India's opponents in the group stage - Bangladesh and Ireland - failed to get through India's openers quickly enough to exploit the weakness in the middle. West Indies did not. Fidel Edwards and Jerome Taylor sent down a bunch of short-of-a-length deliveries and bouncers at the openers, denying Rohit the length and room to play his graceful shots. He was eventually dismissed top-edging a pull and Gambhir too was nearly undone by a bouncer but the ball lobbed over first slip. Raina, who was sent in at No. 3, was also unsettled by short ones before prodding a full ball to the wicketkeeper. The West Indian bowlers rarely pitched anything in the batsman's half.

India were in distress at 29 for 3 when Dhoni began his innings. The plan was to consolidate and play through a few overs without losing wickets before trying to compensate for the balls consumed. Yuvraj executed the plan perfectly, launching the ball to the boundary after a wary start, but Dhoni failed to get out of the mire. He plodded his way to 11, using 23 balls in the process, and was caught at deep point. Yuvraj and Yusuf Pathan recovered, and perhaps Dhoni's dismissal was a blessing for India, for they eventually got to 153. They should have got 170. Too much ground had been conceded and West Indies ensured India couldn't recover it.

India, like most of their opponents, are still fine-tuning their strategies in the shortest format. They need to decide where to bat Dhoni and hit upon a batting order that will carry them through the Super Eights. They have until Sunday to find one.

George Binoy is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • sandeep1978 on June 14, 2009, 4:41 GMT

    Dhoni, was once a one trick pony, who with time has developed into a two trick pony. But once a pony, always a pony ! Seriously, he has basically 1 big shot, the lofted one straight over mid on to the ball which is pitched up. And the singles to mid on and mid off. U block them n u have blocked dhoni.. They miss sachin n dravid and miss them badly, especialy when the ball is doing a bit. raina is basically a flat track bully with a weakness for the short ball , which has been picked up by the other teams....

  • RajaneeshG on June 14, 2009, 4:25 GMT

    It is true that Dhoni had failed miserably in last few matches. But I think he had a plan in his mind - to hold the innings at initial stage and then cut loose at slog overs. But, he couldn't make that transition as smooth as he anticipated. In the last match against WI, he tried the same thing and WI are smarter enough to tie him down and prevent him from rotating the strike. That made the 'captain cool' desperate and he tried to get off the pressure by going for big hits. Simply he can't execute his plan. That happens sometimes. But, don't forget that he is the most brilliant captain India got and please stop blaming this guy. He knows what to do exactly.

  • satyasainvs on June 14, 2009, 4:24 GMT

    I don't feel India this time around playing like champions. I could feel IPL might effect the performance of Indian team by too much cricket in IPL. I feel mostly everyone effect by stress which is there in IPL. I could really say IPL is most beneficial to foreign players rather than Indian players. Most of the foreign teams played their batsman rather than their strike bowlers.. Their batsman get more practice than bowlers. Our main players Shewag, Zaheer, Dhone are mostly effected by IPL. I don't feel IPL is beneficial before T20 World cup. I feel it is a spoiler because of over pressure in it.. It's a miracle if India get a world cup again..

  • rejin on June 14, 2009, 4:20 GMT

    i would never say that dhoni ralled his troops well and in batting im sure he is gonna come back and rock india

  • sathish4 on June 14, 2009, 4:17 GMT

    Don't take me wrong, I think Dhoni's a good batsman for test cricket.. although I'd never pay money to watch him, because he's got no technique. His batting is completely about speed of the bat and a very fast eye for the ball.

    He just doesn't cut it in the top order in T20 or ODIs, and he should stand aside and let the better batsman do their jobs. His most important position in limited overs is #6 or #7, depending on the match situation. Now, without Sehwag, we have a shorter batting order and we need him at #6 to save the innings, because that's what he does best. He's got no idea how to take the initiative. And the rubbish thing for us Indian fans is that, he's trying to learn how to do it... at the World Cup of all places.

    I still believe that we have what it takes to qualify for the semis, though.

  • shan_ss on June 14, 2009, 4:16 GMT

    I dont think consolidation is not just eating up the balls. Mr.Cool has to realise that he is playing T20 not 50 over match.

  • nick.044u on June 14, 2009, 4:15 GMT

    at 1st i want comment on the line tht Dhoni is most versatile batsman..r u mad?he is 1 of the bats who has very poor technique...but luckiest batsman..Dhoni also known as 1 of the attacking batsman then y does he hope that to take attaking shot is the wrk of yuvi,yusuf ,or raina..i thnk he wants to b in limelight bcz recently raina,sehwag,yusuf n yuvi hiding his personality by their good batting skill..thts y he always came in to no 3 whn there was no good attack but hide himself agnst WI and send to Raina at no. 3...i thnk he doesnt deserve a 12th of team with their current form with strike rate 103

  • sathish4 on June 14, 2009, 4:15 GMT

    Don't take me wrong, I think Dhoni's a good batsman for test cricket.. although I'd never pay money to watch him, because he's got no technique. His batting is completely about speed of the bat and a very fast eye for the ball.

    He just doesn't cut it in the top order in T20 or ODIs, and he should stand aside and let the better batsman do their jobs. His most important position in limited overs is #6 or #7, depending on the match situation. Now, without Sehwag, we have a shorter batting order and we need him at #6 to save the innings, because that's what he does best. He's got no idea how to take the initiative. And the rubbish thing for us Indian fans is that, he's trying to learn how to do it... at the World Cup of all places.

    I still believe that we have what it takes to qualify for the semis, though.

  • sathish4 on June 14, 2009, 4:12 GMT

    The problem is that Dhoni's one of the most over-rated cricketers around, and there's a lot of hype around him because a bunch of kids saw highlights of him digging out yorkers and hitting them straight down the ground with pure power. Dhoni's started believing his own hype.

    No one's going to believe this crap that Dhoni coming in at 3 is part of some great strategy to balance the absence of Sehwag or to balance the aggressor/anchor combination. He did it over and over for the Chennai Superkings. He came at 3 when the more aggressive batsman fell, he came at 3 when the less aggressive batsman fell.. and in both cases, he came in and played his run-a-ball innings and brought the run-rate of the team down. We're seeing that with the national side now.

  • TamilIndian on June 14, 2009, 4:01 GMT

    Opening may be a good option. Dont dont try to consolidate just go for broke - make it a lottery. with field restrictions until 6th over there is a good possibility lot of edges and mishits might go uncaught. It is always good to have one lottery type person in the opening combo.

  • No featured comments at the moment.