Dhoni still has plenty to offer for Team India

Chennai: Until a few days ago, critics wrote off Dhoni. A few even called him an ‘ageing tiger’ and doubted his inclusion in the team for ICC World Cricket Cup. Call it a scene straight from a cinema, Dhoni walked to the middle and what followed was three wonderful half centuries which eventually helped India script history, winning the ODI series 2-1 in AUstralia. And Dhoni returned with ‘Man of the Series’ trophy.

The former skipper and CSK talisman proved all pundits wrong by stamping his class Down Under. There was patience and aggression in his innings. He hardly kept a foot wrong except for a couple of dropped chances in the game yesterday. He was in no hurry and a typical ‘Dhoni’ took the games till the last over to make sure all well ends well.

Fit & fine
No one is more committed to Indian cricket than Mahendra Singh Dhoni and batting at number five is the ideal spot for him, said Virat Kohli in stout Dhoni faced criticism for slow batting in the ODI series-opener in Sydney before redeeming his pride and reputation with match-winning contributions in the Adelaide and Melbourne ODIs. Acknowledging Dhoni’s contribution in the historic series-triumph in Australia, Kohli defended the former captain saying he should be allowed breathing space.

Three cheers
In first ODI in Sydney, Dhoni came out to bat when Team India had lost three wickets for just four runs. He partnered Rohit Sharma to stabilise the innings for his side as the duo added 137 runs for the fourth wicket. When India lost the match, critics blamed him 51-run that came in 96 deliveries.

The second ODI at Adelaide saw Dhoni at his best. Virat Kohli was going good on one side. When he got out, Dhoni carried on playing with calculated risks helping India win. The final ODI (series decider) at Melbourne saw Dhoni steer India to victory. He managed an unbeaten 121-run partnership for the fourth wicket with Kedar Jadhav . Another fine showing by Dhoni.

‘A superstar’
Australian coach Justin Langer Friday paid tribute to Dhoni as a superstar and an all-time great of the game. “He (Dhoni) is 37 years old. His running between the wickets is elite, and his fitness is elite. For him to run between the wickets for three days in a row, it was 40 degrees the other day, and play like that, he is a superstar of the game and that’s what Australians should be aspiring to be — superstars of the game,” he said.

“If M S Dhoni can come out and run between wickets like that after keeping wickets for 50 overs, that is the level the whole world should be aspiring to.”

‘Team comes first’
A modest Dhoni, on receiving the Man of the Series, said, “I am happy to bat at any number. The important thing is where the team needs me’.
“Whether I play at 4 or 6, we need to see if the team balance can be retained. I am happy to bat lower down at 6. I can’t say I can’t bat at No. 6 after playing 14 years,” he said.

Dhoni, who had managed only 275 runs from 20 ODIs in 2018, scored 51 in Sydney, 55 not out in Adelaide before scoring another one in the series decider in Melbourne. Overall, Dhoni now has 70 half-centuries in one-day internationals.

NT Bureau