Vintage Dhoni, but too little of it

MS Dhoni for CSK (Image: IPL)

MS Dhoni danced down the track and timed his helicopter shot to perfection. Within a fraction of a second, the ball had sailed over the midwicket boundary for a six. Rashid Khan, the bowler, looked stunned. Next ball, the result was the same. Chennai Super Kings (CSK) may have lost, but the crowd went ballistic as Dhoni scored 26 off just 11 balls. It had brilliance written all over it, and that was what begged the question one more time.

Is Dhoni batting too little and too low for CSK and himself? Could this cost his side a play-off place? Someone with a strike-rate of 226.66 (nearly 14 runs an over) has faced just 60 balls this IPL, and it is impossible to understand why. You can the numbers, and only Shivam Dube has struck at more than 150 (170.18), the bare minimum required in the present conditions. Rachin Ravindra’s strike-rate of 161.44 is almost invalid on account of a dismal average of 16.75. That the likes of Ravindra Jadeja (138.36), Moeen Ali (138.82) and Daryl Mitchell (143.13) have routinely batted before Dhoni beggars belief.

Yes, there are many theories floating around. Had Devon Conway been there, he could have kept wicket and freed up Dhoni. Dhoni, who is nursing an injury, could then have batted up the order. In the absence of a keeper, he has little option but to prioritise that role. But then, wicketkeeping is the most difficult and physically demanding job of all tasks. If Dhoni can manage 120 squats or more every game, what stops him from batting for a couple more overs?

It is clear, both to the naked eye and from the numbers, that he is still the best and biggest hitter for CSK. Right now, he’s averaging six balls an innings. A couple more over of his batting could be the difference between a play-off spot and elimination. Shouldn’t Ruturaj Gaikwad and the management ask him to bat a few more balls, especially given the wretched form of some of last season’s title-winning stalwarts? In real terms, his innings against Gujarat was too little, too late, and didn’t help his team but for the NRR.

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MS Dhoni in action in IPL 2024 (PC: IPL/X)

When someone is batting with such flair and panache, why would they hold themselves back to No. 8 or 9? Even if he has an injury, he is keeping wickets every game. That suggests that a few extra balls of batting shouldn’t be much of an issue.

After the defeat on Friday night, CSK have dug themselves into a hole, and it could well be because their best striker of a cricket ball hasn’t been facing enough of it. CSK haven’t utilised that matchless ability as best they can, and better planning is the need of the hour. Could they redeem themselves in the last two games, and might we see a few more helicopter shots played to perfection? Along with bringing the crowd to their feet, a little more of Dhoni could also take CSK into the playoffs. For his last dance, what could be better?

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MS Dhoni danced down the track and timed his helicopter shot to perfection. Within a fraction of a second, the ball had sailed over the midwicket boundary for a six.…

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