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Where should Dhoni bat in ODIs?

By Harish Kotian
January 10, 2017 13:57 IST

Should Dhoni bat at No 4, asks Rediff.com's Harish Kotian, or should he play the finisher's role at No 6?

Mahendra Singh Dhoni

IMAGE: Mahendra Singh Dhoni hits a six. Photograph: BCCI

Ever since he's given up the limited overs captaincy, there is talk of Mahendra Singh Dhoni batting with freedom and returning to his aggressive self, now that the burden of leading the team is off his shoulders.

While there have been various debates on Dhoni's role in the ODI team, it will be interesting to see where Captain Virat Kohli fits the 35 year old in his one-day and T20 side, keeping in mind his diminishing returns as a big hitter in the last couple of years.

Kohli will do well to not forget the fact that India needs a settled middle order ahead of the ICC Champions Trophy in June and also build the team for the 50 overs World Cup nearly two years down the line.

'I would love to see him (Dhoni) bat higher up usually than what has been over the years,' Kohli said last week after he was named captain for ODIs and T20Is.

'I am really happy and pleased that he would be able to play freely. He would be able to express himself as the aggressive M S Dhoni we knew when he came into the team,' he added.

The experienced Dhoni at No 4 would be ideal for India, especially in run chases, but he has also been quite prolific at No 5 and batted a lot at No 6.

Check the table below for his batting record by positions:

PositionMatchesInningsRunsHighest ScoreAverageS/R100s50s
Opener 2 2 98 96 49 86.73 0 1
3rd 16 16 993 183* 82.75 99.7 2 6
4th 26 26 1,223 109* 58.24 94.81 1 11
5th 59 59 2,320 124 52.73 88.08 3 12
6th 112 112 3,613 139* 45.16 84.24 1 26
7th 28 28 812 139* 47.76 94.97 2 5
8th 3 3 51 20 17 62.2 0 0
Overall 246 246 9,110 183* 50.89 88.8 9 61

The table does make one thing clear -- Dhoni can adjust to any position between 4 to 6, which gives Kohli flexibility to use his former skipper as per the situation of the game.

What the table doesn't mention is that Dhoni hasn't batted at No 6 since October 2015. The last time he finished a match at that position was against Zimbabwe, in the 2015 World Cup, when he smashed 85 not out from 76 balls.

Dhoni will easily finish his career as one of the greatest to have graced the 50-overs game. He played a pivotal role in India’s World Cup triumph in 2011 and his helicopter six to win the final against Sri Lanka has been etched in the memory of the Indians forever.

Dhoni enjoyed a golden run with the bat till 2014. In the last couple of years, his record has taken a slight downward curve.

In 2015, he scored 640 runs in 20 games at an average of 45, a strike rate of 86, a good record in the normal course of things, but not by Dhoni's standards.

And in 2016, he scored 278 runs from 13 games at an average of 27, easily the worst year of his career.

Dhoni's batting record since 2011:

YearMatchesInningsRunsHighest ScoreAverageS/R100s50s
2011 24 22 764 91* 58.77 89.88 0 6
2012 16 14 524 113* 65.5 87.63 1 3
2013 26 20 753 139* 62.75 96.05 1 5
2014 12 10 418 79* 52.25 92.07 0 5
2015 20 17 640 92* 45.71 86.84 0 4
2016 13 10 278 80 27.8 80.12 0 1

Dhoni's record at home as expected is top notch with 3,811 runs in 105 matches at an average of 57 and a whopping strike rate of 92.

Overseas, his tally takes a slight dip to 5,299 runs from 178 ODIs at an average of 46 and a strike rate of 86.

Dhoni's record in seamer-friendly conditions in England, which will host both the ICC Champions Trophy and the 2019 World Cup, is not that inspiring.

He first played in England nearly ten years ago, in 2007, where he has a below par record of 519 runs in 21 games at an average of 37 with five half centuries.

Dhoni's record at home and away:

VenueMatchesInningsRunsHighest ScoreAverageS/R100s50s
Home 105 95 3,811 183* 57.74 92.19 6 22
Away 178 151 5,299 139* 46.89 86.51 3 39
Overall 283 246 9,110 183* 50.89 88.8 9 61

IMAGE: Dhoni mishits and is caught by Kagiso Rabada during an ODI against South Africa, Kanpur, October 2015. Photograph: BCCI

In the last couple of years Dhoni's reputation as a finisher has taken a beating in both ODIs and T20Is.

In June last year, he failed to take India to victory in a T20 International against Zimbabwe with just 8 runs needed from the final over bowled by pacer Neville Madziva.

In August, he was unable to score 2 runs off the final delivery of the T20I game against the West Indies in Florida as he sliced a slower ball from Dwayne Bravo straight into the hands of the fielder at short thirdman.

In October 2015, a young Kagiso Rabada had stopped the Indian captain from getting 11 runs off the final over in a One-Day International in Kanpur.

The table below lists Dhoni's showing in tournaments since the 2011 World Cup:

TournamentsMatchesInningsRunsHighest ScoreAverageS/R100s50s
2011 World Cup 9 8 241 91* 48.2 81.69 0 1
England vs India ODI series, 2011 5 5 236 78* 78.67 97.93 0 3
India vs England ODIs, 2011-12 5 4 212 87*   112.77 0 2
CB series 2011-2012 (India, Australia, Sri Lanka) 7 6 205 58* 51.25 67.66 0 2
2012 Asia Cup 3 3 71 46*   186.84 0 0
Sri Lanka vs India ODIs, 2012-2013 5 4 135 58 33.75 102.27 0 1
India vs Pakistan ODIs, 2012-2013 3 3 203 113* 203 75.46 1 1
India vs England ODIs, 2012-2013 5 5 148 72 37 100.68 0 1
2013 ICC Champions Trophy 5 2 27 27 13.5 90 0 0
West Indies Tri-series 2013 (India, West Indies, Sri Lanka) 2 2 72 45* 72 82.76 0 0
India vs Australia ODIs, 2013-2014 6 4 245 139* 122.5 120.1 1 1
India vs West Indies ODIs, 2013-2014 3 3 87 51*   124.29 0 1
South Africa vs India, ODIs, 2013-2014 3 2 84 65 42 82.35 0 1
New Zealand vs India, ODIs, 2013-2014 5 5 272 79* 68 92.2 0 3
England vs India, ODIs, 2014 4 2 81 52 40.5 87.1 0 1
India vs West Indies, 2014-2015 3 3 65 51* 32.5 98.48 0 1
Carlton Mid Tri-series (India, Australia, England) 4 3 70 34 23.33 56.45 0 0
2015 ICC World Cup 8 6 237 85* 59.25 102.16 0 2
Bangladesh vs India ODIs, 2015 3 3 121 69 40.33 76.1 0 1
India vs South Africa ODIs, 2015-2016 5 5 212 92* 53 95.5 0 1
Australia vs India ODIs, 2015-2016 5 5 86 34 17.2 111.69 0 0
Zimbabwe vs India ODIs, 2016 3 Did not bat - - - - - -
India vs New Zealand ODIs, 2016-2017 5 5 192 80 38.4 71.11 0 1

With Ajinkya Rahane not faring so consistently and Yuvraj Singh making a comeback after a long gap to join the inexperienced duo of Manish Pandey and Kedar Jadhav, the Indian middle order could certainly do with someone of the experience of Dhoni, who can win matches on his own with the bat.

Where do you think Dhoni should bat in the coming series against England?

Should he bat at No 4 or should he play the finisher's role at No 6?

Please click on the poll below to make your choice:

 

Harish Kotian / Rediff.com
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