MS DHONI: CHANGE THE GAME
|The abominable Pepsi ad poster I was talking about|
MS Dhoni is a lot of things. He is a two-time World Cup winning captain, he is India’s most successful captain-batsman, he is the captain with the most terrible overseas Test record, he is the man who changed the face of Indian cricket. But amidst it all, he is the most influential Indian cricketer of modern times. Influential, not just as the captain of the Indian team, but also as one of India’s foremost batsman. One strong performance from his bat can change the game (No reference to the abominable Pepsi campaign by the same name)
We have seen this game-changing batting ability from him in spades whenever he has played limited overs cricket, in blue or yellow or in any other color; but it has been rarely seen in the Test whites. Of the 74 Tests he has played in his 7 and ¼ years career, he has scored 4107 runs at an average of almost 40 with a strike rate of almost 60 batting from No. 3 to No. 8 with 6 centuries and 28 half-centuries, receiving the Man of the Match award only twice. (Incidentally both against Australia) While these numbers are not disgraceful for a wicketkeeper-batsman coming at No. 7 in a team that boasts (or boasted) of extraordinary batting stalwarts, they are a bit anti-climatic for a player like Dhoni. He has never been able to stamp his authority on the 5-day game as he has in the shorter formats of the game. His overseas record is flaky and has never scored a century outside the sub-continent and of his 6 centuries, none has come in losses. In most cases, an average Indian fan does not even expect much when Dhoni comes in to bat in a Test, and in recent times he had become more of a tail-ender than R Ashwin. Why am I spouting statistics and highlighting Dhoni’s Test defects you ask? Because this just goes on to show how crucial, how utterly important Dhoni’s double ton against Australia in the Chennai Test was.
|MS Dhoni scored 224 runs from 265 balls with 24 fours and 6 sixes at a strike rate of 84 vs Australia in the first Test at Chennai.|
Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni scored 224 runs from 265 balls with 24 fours and 6 sixes at a strike rate of 84. Statistically, this was his best Test innings, beating his previous best of 144 vs West Indies at the Eden Gardens in 2011. But qualitatively and influentially, this was his THE BEST Test innings. There are a many reasons for this – it was against Australia, it came on the back of dreadful Test series loss against England, it gave India a sizeable lead and it was at an amazing strike rate and it was the final clincher for India’s victory. He became only the second Indian batsman (after Sehwag of course) to score 200 runs in one day, 100 of which came in a single session! (Here let’s observe a moment of silence for Nathan Lyon) I have followed MS Dhoni’s career from the start and I have never seen him bat like this is a Test match. I was half expecting him to strip of his Test whites and reveal his yellow jersey underneath! Maybe because he was the playing at his favourite ground or maybe he got inspired by his ‘Oh Yes Abhi’ ad, Dhoni’s 224 against Australia at Chennai ‘changed the game’
On a serious note, Dhoni has set the tone for the rest of the series. A one-match lead counts for not much in a Test series unless you can carry forward the momentum, as we saw against England. Dhoni and his troops have their task cut out at Hyderabad, bat big, spin them out and take an unassailable 2-0 lead. Expecting the Border-Gavaskar Trophy to be a one-sided series is too much and Australia will be raring to go and get even. But Dhoni’s knock has given India the much needed momentum early in the series. Over to Hyderabad!