MS Dhoni, the Chennai Super Kings captain, has admitted that age might be changing his game, necessitating a move up the order in T20 cricket. He has likened batting down the order to the experience of stepping into quicksand.
With 455 runs in 16 matches, Dhoni, 36, was one of the driving forces behind CSK's title win in IPL 2018. Dhoni's tally was just six runs short of his most productive season ever. He also faced 302 balls - it was only the third time he had faced more than 300 balls in a season.
"I was sure in my mind that I wanted to bat up the order, because with age, me batting down the order was like quicksand," Dhoni said at an event in Mumbai. "I wanted to make sure that I wanted to take the responsibility of winning the game, but I was coming so [far] down the order that I was not giving time to myself.
"So, it was more like quicksand: the more I flutter, the deeper I would go. So, I said that I want to make a team where we bat deep, that gives me a chance to bat up the order, and to me up the order doesn't mean I want to bat at three, four or five; it's the number of overs [left in the innings]."
One of the major successes of CSK's 2018 campaign was their death-overs batting - they ended the tournament as the team with the best average and the second-best scoring rate in overs 16-20, with several of their innings characterised by manic late surges. Dhoni had a big part to play in that as he turned the clock back with his big hitting, striking at 12.04 an over and averaging 99 in the last five overs. He also biffed 30 sixes - his most in a single season - with 24 coming in the last five overs. Dhoni felt being part of a team that batted deep, and a team full of in-form batsmen, gave him the license to bat aggressively.
"I said that I want to bat up, so when I go into bat, I would like to bat aggressive, so that even if I get out, it gives others a chance to reinvent themselves about finishing the game, what they need to do, if they are under pressure and all of that," he said. "Fortunately, we did not use our batting order to the full extent in the whole of IPL because [Shane] Watson, [Ambati] Rayudu, [Suresh] Raina, me, [Dwayne] Bravo - we all kept scoring runs and that really helped us. But my planning, right from the start, was to make a team which bats deep, where everybody should be able to bat, and that gives me an opportunity to go out there and express myself."