A look into Dhoni’s performance post captaincy

4 January 2017, the day when Mahendra Singh Dhoni said goodbye to the captaincy of Indian cricket team. After the announcement, a lot of questions were raised ‘should he continue to play?‘, ‘can he survive till 2019?‘. Every person had their respective opinions, but the person whose opinion mattered the most was Dhoni himself who was clear that he wanted to play till 2019 world cup.

Since then Dhoni has played 2 IPLs, seven bilateral ODI and T20I series and a champions trophy. His performance with gloves was never a question. It was as quick as it used to be (some may say even better). But his dipping finishing abilities regularly raised questions.

His first series post captaincy was with England at home where he scored an ODI century after more than three years and his maiden T20I fifty in his 66th innings. After this performance, nobody seemed to have a complaint and the talks of pre-captaincy Dhoni begun. Then India played Champions trophy where he didn’t get many chances to bat but still played a crucial inning against Srilanka.

Then India went to West Indies where he made a useful 78 in the third ODI, for which he got the man of the match after two years. But in the next game we saw Dhoni playing one of his strangest innings, he made 54 off 114 balls for which he faced a lot of criticism and again questions were raised ‘whether the finisher is finished?’. From there we saw Dhoni making changes in his batting techniques he even switched to the regular pads from the Morrant pads for some time.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni
Mahendra Singh Dhoni

After this, we saw that whenever there was a collapse in Indian batting Dhoni stood like a pillar every time whether It was the match-saving knock in Pallekele, 78 vs Aussie in Chennai or the 65 in Dharamsala where India was on the verge to get their ever lowest total in ODIs. From here people started seeing Dhoni with a different role, he was no longer the power hitter who would come at last five overs and smack all over the park. He was more of an innings stabilizer now who would play through the innings.

Now it was the Rajkot T20I which changed the things again where Dhoni came to bat in the 10th over when the required run rate was touching 11 and Kholi was set at the other end. Dhoni, as usual, started slowly and was not able to rotate the strike and got stuck which built the pressure on Kholi resulting in his dismissal and Dhoni eventually not able to finish. This innings from Dhoni faced a lot of criticism, many former players like Harbhajan, Agarkar, Ganguly suggested Dhoni should retire from T20I. But he was strongly backed by the captain and team management, Kholi expressed his full support to Dhoni in the post-match conference. Then India went to South Africa where Dhoni had a middling series where he was able to score only one fifty in the second T20I.

We can say that Dhoni had a pretty decent performance(but he was continually targeted due to his age) after post captaincy. He regularly played important knocks and was always amongst the runs, the only question mark was his dipping hitting abilities, he was making runs but with a lower strike rate. He initially needed time to settle(in a recent interview he told that he need more deliveries now than Dhoni of a few years ago), which also heated the never-ending debate of his batting position, many people even criticised Virat for using Dhoni in the lower middle order.

When everyone thought that Dhoni ‘the hitter‘ is finished and is no longer a power hitter as he used to be, he showed his masterclass in the IPL 2018 where he scored 455 runs with a whopping strike rate of 150 which helped his team to win the title. Everyone saw the ‘vintage Dhoni‘ in this IPL who was hitting the ball at will. And once again Dhoni was able to shut the mouth of his haters and critics, and the headlines of newspapers from ‘ Is the finisher finished?’ went to ‘finisher Reborn!‘.

In this 18 months, one thing which stood out was his willingness to play the 2019 world cup and his consistent efforts to perform well. He never wanted to be a liability to the team; he wanted to be there and perform. He started working on his fitness more than ever, changed his diet and started going to gym to keep his body fit at this age. He even made changes in his batting techniques from time to time, reduced the weight of his bat. In this IPL we saw he was one of the first players to join the training camp of CSK.

These efforts made him the player he is, he never took his place in the side as granted and did everything to perform better and always replied his critics with the bat, a few days ago he was spotted in NCA practicing alone in the nets before the England tour.

By Adesh Kyal (Adesh.kyal@gmail.com)


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