Friday, July 03, 2009

Dhoni the batsman

178 cricketers have played ODI cricket for India in the 35 years that India have been playing ODI cricket. Of these, only 10 players have made 4000 or more career ODI runs for India. Tendulkar, Ganguly, Dravid, Azharuddin, Yuvraj Singh, Virender Sehwag, Ajay Jadeja, Navjyot Siddhu, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Krishnamachari Srikanth. Every one of these 10 other than Dhoni played as specialist batsmen. None of them (with the possible exception of Tendulkar) have matched Dhoni's astonishing versatility as an ODI batsman.

M S Dhoni is the ultimate floater. The premise of a floater in a batting order is that such a batsman can play in various positions and match situations, and can be used to accomodate other specialist batsmen whose skills are more specialized - who don't possess the same flexibility. Four and a half thousand ODI runs at a batting average of 50.00 (in ODI cricket!) and a strike rate of 90, make Dhoni a dream batsman.

Yet, his batting is the least celebrated of his many talents. This has partly to do with the fact that he works as a floater. The most celebrated batsmen bat in one position. Their performances are thus easier to keep track of, because we as viewers know what to expect of them.

Dhoni is a dream player for India. Imagine a captain who is also a versatile floater in the batting order, and keeps wickets. Dhoni performs the roles of not one, but two all rounders, especially in limited overs cricket. First, he is your average wicketkeeper-batsman-captain. Then, he's a deadly combination of a number 3 batsman who can control an innings, a number 5 batsman who can rescue an innings or finish it, and a number 7 or 8 batsman who can bat in the last 10 overs of an ODI and make a half century in 25 balls. The frightening thing is that he's very very good, as good as any specialist in the world, in each of these roles!

At the heart of Dhoni's success is a unrivalled canniness. An ability to read a situation and adapt. In this, he is positively Tendulkaresque. To add to this, he has the discipline to actually do exactly what he wants to for very long periods of time without getting distracted. One rarely sees Dhoni play an impetuous stroke - desperate strokes maybe, especially if he feels he's getting stuck, but not impetuous mistakes. That old cliche about ice running through the veins could have been coined with him in mind. Nothing exemplifies this more than Dhoni's batting record against Sri Lanka as Captain. In 16 games, played in 2008 or 2009, Dhoni has made 754 runs at 67.73, with 8 half centuries. In nearly all of these 16 games, Dhoni has had to face Muralitharan and Mendis early in his innings. No Indian batsman (with the possible exception of Sehwag) has mastered Murali and Mendis like Dhoni has. Whats more, Dhoni has not only played them, but played them according to the match situation. It is hard not to marvel at the skill which underlies much of Dhoni's increasingly understated work with the bat.

M S Dhoni's batting is at one ungainly, sly, studious, silent and deceptively powerful. Many times you might see him block almost everything with great apparent discomfort, only to find that at the end of the innings, he has not only kept his end up, but ended with a fairly substantially innings produced at nearly a run a ball. It is phenomenal talent producing very learned, highly evolved batsmanship.

When M S Dhoni bats in the limited overs game, a master, both of his own skills and of the match situation is at work. By the time he finishes his career, he will command a place in the same breath as Tendulkar.


  1. don't agree entirely
    don't you feel he needs more practice as a batsman?.
    that the opposition is weak is no excuse for the font foot
    else dravid and others are redundant

  2. and why hasn't he been able to transfer his success as a batsman to the highest level ?

  3. I am spellbound and speechless... this is such a good exhaustive research... MSD is indeed great !!!
    A class of his own... technique of his own... WOW !