The biggest debate about Indian cricket in the recent times has been the role of MS Dhoni in the team. How important is MS Dhoni for the Indian team? Some have claimed that it’s time for the veteran to hang up the boots and give someone like Rishabh Pant a consistent run in the side while others believe he still has what it takes to compete at the highest level.
If anything, he has answered all the critics with his wonderful performances in the past couple of months. First, in the Caribbean, he won a game for the team and also bagged the Man of the Match award. Then, in the Lankan island, no bowler could get him out and he dominated the proceedings like he has done all his life.
There is no doubt about the fact that he is the most successful Indian captain ever and has won all the trophies that are there to be won. But all that is in the past and he is no more at the helm of affairs as far as the captaincy goes. Yet the 36-year-old is an inseparable part of the team.
Here are a few reasons why India still needs MS Dhoni until the 2019 ODI World Cup
A solid middle-order batsman
The first ODI between India and Australia in Chennai proved why Virat Kohli needs the assurance of Dhoni. If the top order fails, he is the one that puts his hand up and refuses to leave the fort. Had he thrown his wicket away like others in the last game, imagine what would have happened to the team post him.
A pretty similar incident happened on the Sri Lankan tour as well when Akila Dananjaya ripped through the top-order and India was staring at the barrel of the gun. Yet again, it was Dhoni who stood firm. Like he guided Bhuvneshwar Kumar then, he let Hardik Pandya flourish at the other end and played the second fiddle until he was required to up the ante.
He may not be the kind of finisher he used to be once, he may not be enforcing those last over finishes anymore yet there is no one better than him to guide the innings. It’s time the likes of Kedar Jadhav and Hardik Pandya take up the finisher’s role and bank on the senior to be around them.
Even those people, who have asked for Dhoni’s removal, would agree to the fact that there is no one better than him when it comes to skills with the gloves. He had retired from Test cricket due to his lack of contribution with the bat yet his keeping skills were still as good as anyone else, if not the better.
Still, he is the best in the country to serve the duties behind the stumps. Every single stumping of his makes the headlines these days and he now has more than 100 of them in ODIs, by far the highest. He is safe as houses and very rarely would you see him grassing a catch.
Additionally, his judgment from behind the stumps is immaculate. Whenever Virat Kohli wants to use the DRS, he turns to his senior pro and more often than not, the advice turns out to be right. If Dhoni appeals, maybe, one day even the umpire would go with his instincts and say ‘you know what! I trust you, no need to go upstairs.’
A guide for the youngsters
A decade ago when the legendary Sachin Tendulkar was a prominent member of the Indian unit, the youngsters used to dream of playing alongside him and sharing the dressing room with him. MS Dhoni has certainly achieved that stature in the team nowadays. A lot of aspiring cricketers are keen to learn from him and if the likes of Jasprit Bumrah, Hardik Pandya spend time with him, they would become major weapons for India for the next World Cup.
The way he guided Bhuvneshwar Kumar while chasing in Sri Lanka and helped Hardik Pandya in the last ODI against Australia stresses on the fact that a cool head like him is needed in the line-up who remains unflustered by the surroundings.
On the other hand, when the Indian spinners are on, that’s when Dhoni is at his best. He can be heard through the stump mic instructing the bowlers where to bowl. When Glenn Maxwell was threatening to run away with the game, the Ranchi-born asked Yuzvendra Chahal to bowl wider that led to the downfall of the batsman courtesy a mistimed shot.
The bottom line is that India can’t go without Dhoni in the 2019 ODI World Cup. With all the experience, he is the perfect foil for Virat Kohli. If the current skipper could make a wish right now, he would want to see the great man finishing the final with a maximum just like the Wankhede to bring the trophy back home. Gosh!
The Rose Bowl, Southampton
Kidderminster Cricket Club
Old Trafford, Manchester
Riverside Ground, Durham
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