Chennai Super Kings and the Yellow Army had a disappointing IPL 2020. The team ended the season at seventh position in the league table. This came as a shock to all viewers as Chennai otherwise has had the best win percentage (61.28) in the IPL. The Tami Nadu based franchise also holds the record for most appearances in the playoffs and the final of the Indian Premier League.MS Dhoni-led team also happens to be the only IPL team to qualify for playoffs every season they played until last season.
For a team that has such stats, the disaster of last year was not easy to handle. Chennai has very strong and highly experienced players in their team which gives them a one-up. But this talent and expertise weren’t put to good use. Now, with Chennai handing DC an easy win in their opening game this season, a debate that was evidently present last year has started making rounds again.
Even Sunil Gavaskar on Saturday questioned MS Dhoni’s decision to bat at number seven for Chennai Super Kings in their seven-wicket defeat to Delhi Capitals in IPL. Gavaskar said Dhoni has to take up more responsibility and guide the CSK batting line-up which has quite a few youngsters in IPL 2021.
“As far as Chennai Super Kings are concerned, MS Dhoni has to take a call on his batting order. Deep down, he might be thinking he is going to bat only the last 4-5 overs. But he also needs to guide the team a little”.
“But at the same time, MSD needs to come up the order somewhere down the line, that is the way he can control the game. He was out to the 2nd ball that he faced, and that can happen to anyone. But as the tournament progresses, he needs to come up a little bit, maybe at 6 or 5 and show the way,”
Even though there were multiple reasons for the bad performance last year like woes in the opening partnership, powerplay struggles, etc last season the biggest disappointment came from former Indian skipper, MS Dhoni’s form and attitude. More so with the kind of skills he has with the bat, a lot of cricket experts suggested that Dhoni should move up the batting order.
But Dhoni has been constantly coming out to bat post number five which has been counterproductive for the team. In T-20 format, teams need to be in form to attack all the time. Dhoni’s reluctance to come sooner can once again contribute to poor performance this season. The question arises over and over again due to the fact that as per Dhoni’s statistics and skills he has not been delivering fair performances.
What happens currently is that Dhoni walks in to bat in the last 5-6 overs and even in those overs he takes a good ten balls to settle, which is enough to give momentum to the opposition. The opposite side gets an easy two over the lead, hence landing the game into their pockets.
Another reason why him coming late proves fatal is because while he has the experience and comfort of navigating through pressure situations, the batsman on the nonstriker end may not be as eased out of being placed in such a situation, with Dhoni taking his time to settle, creates a constraint on the other batsmen who might end up leaking more runs. This style of his performance was previously lambasted during the 2019 world cup too.
So when all is clear why doesn’t Dhoni come out early? If he knows he needs to take time to settle in, why not come in at number four or five, when there are still a good 10-12 overs left on average. Well, by critic choices this would be the ideal thing to do. Ajit Agarkar also insisted that Dhoni should be batting higher up the order.
“In my opinion, MS Dhoni shouldn’t be batting lower than number5. It will obviously depend on what the situation is, but the lowest he should go is number 5. He is arguably one of the greatest cricketing brains to ever play the game. He can see things and access situations which other players can’t and you can see, as the tournament progresses, his form’s getting better as well. So, he shouldn’t be batting lower than number 5 for me,”
Since Dhoni has become the eye of the storm since his performance last season. The issue that has not been brought up that often is that even though he is a great batsman, Dhoni has mostly played at number four or five. His command over the new ball isn’t as good as his command over an older ball, so essentially even if he does step in at two down, he will still take time getting used to the ball.
At the end of the day, Dhoni’s batting performance may not be impressive, but he is a good asset for the team in terms of his captaincy skills and his mastery of being lightning quick behind the wickets. So the best-case scenario is that he comes in at four, takes his time, and does what he does best: Finish off in style.