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Rediff.com  » Cricket » Dhoni's dreams will rise and fall with middle order

Dhoni's dreams will rise and fall with middle order

Last updated on: February 19, 2011 16:00 IST
The Indian batting lineup is quiet easily the most feared in this tournament but how the middle order plays the middle overs when the top-order calls in sick is where matches will be won and lost for skipper Dhoni, says old rediff.com hand Faisal Shariff 

Heaved a sigh of relief to see MS Dhoni wield the helicopter shot on the right side of the commercial against New Zealand. Runs off his bat will help the Indian campaign on two counts.

Yusuf Pathan can now stop playing the team's Atlas and just follow his day job of slapping good deliveries out of the park; this without the excess baggage that Lance Klusener carried during the 1999 WC campaign for his team. But more on that later as the tournament progresses.

What Dhoni's free-flowing 100 has done is eased up the pressure on India's top order. And going into a crunch game against Bangladesh who cut short their 2007 world cup campaign before it kicked off, the top three realise the crucial role they will play in this campaign.

- Also read: Anil Kumble's column

Ran through some stats and discovered that there has been just one instance in the last 30 ODIs where India managed to score a total in excess of 250 despite the Top 3 contributing less than 50 runs.

To make that stat look even more startling here's the name of the opponent: Zimbabwe at Bulawayo. (For the enthusiasts, India ended up with 285-5 after the Top 3 contributed 22, 11 & 0 respectively and India still went on to lose that match by six wickets).

It is interesting to note that there have been only five occasions when the top order did not click in the last 30 ODIs; India won 18 and lost only 12. Slice that statistic and you discover that in all those 18 wins, the top order contributed more than 50 runs and in the five matches when they did not total more than the half century mark together they lost all five*.     

A run through those numbers and you start believing that the Indian middle-order has been virtually marching in place while the top order has hit its strides and holds the key to India's chances of lifting the trophy over the next month and a half.

But here's the tricky part. Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Sachin Tendulkar have played less than 10 matches each in the last 12 months. Yuvraj Singh has yet to get his game to the ground and Suresh Raina is now struggling for his place in the playing 11 thanks to Virat Kohli's form with the bat that's risen like a thermometer in a heat wave. Rohit Sharma who is still the second-highest run getter for India in the last 12 months is not even in the touring party. 

The Indian batting lineup is quiet easily the most feared in this tournament but how the middle order plays the middle overs when the top-order calls in sick is where matches will be won and lost for skipper Dhoni.  

The captain has been living a Cinderella story right from the World T20 hurrah but this World Cup campaign for him could well be a slipper of uncertainty.

* On 12 occasions, the top-order contributed between 50 and 100 runs; on 7 occasions between 101 and 150; thrice between 151 and 200 runs, and thrice more than 200 runs

Faisal Shariff