Mahendra Singh Dhoni has always done things his own way. He always thought two steps ahead. He never let emotions get the better of him.
Never was this better displayed than in the finals of the two biggest tournaments that he was won. Instead of entrusting the duties of bowling the final over of the tournament to his best bowler of the series, Harbhajan Singh, he chose Joginder Sharma at the final of the World Twenty20 in 2007. Instead of allowing Yuvraj Singh to bat at his usual position in the final of the World Cup in 2011, he promoted himself over the Man of the Series of the tournament. These decisions were the cornerstone of his reign and led him to be the only cricketer ever to have captained his team to victory in all three limited over International Cricket Council competitions (the One-Day International World Cup, the World Twenty20 and the Champions Trophy).
Dipping batting average
Dhoni has many records as ODI and T2OI captain, but his recent ODI form has dipped considerably.
Ever since Mahi’s debut in 2004, his average has been consistently over the 40 run mark. Moreover, from 2007 onwards, his average has only dipped below 50 twice (in 2010 and 2015).His average of 53.92 as ODI captain is the best of the seven captains to have scored 5,000 or more.
However, his form has been dropping sharply for the past few years. After an average of over 60 across 2011 to 2013 (61.8), he has not scored a century for over 3 years. His average has been dropping year on year since then – 63 in 2013, 52 in 2014, 46 in 2015 and 28 in 2016. Although his 2015 batting average of 46 is more than respectable, it is his form of 2016 where he recorded his lowest ever yearly batting average of 28 that would have made Dhoni introspect on his career.
Finishing the captaincy
Dhoni’s batting average is not the only thing slipping in recent times. Although his ODI win loss ratio of 110-74 is the best of any Indian captain to have held the reigns for at least 20 ODIs, he is winning less than half of his games in charge since the 2015 World Cup (Won-10, Lost-11). That these numbers include three wins against Zimbabwe and a series loss against Bangladesh is a major cause of concern.
When one thinks of MSD, ruthless finishing is something that immediately comes to mind. Dhoni has been bested twice in the final over of matches recently as well, unable to score 11 and 7 off Kagiso Rabada and Dwayne Bravo respectively. And Zimbabwe’s Neville Madziva managed to record a famous victory for his team after preventing Dhoni from hitting a boundary off the last ball in a Twenty20 International last year in June.
What does the future hold?
Clearly, all is not well in the Dhoni camp. The decision to step down from ODI and T20I captaincy must have been weighing on Mahi’s mind for some time. The Indian cricket team have been doing wekk in the Test arena under Virat Kohli’s leadership and Kohli’s own individual form has also peaked considerably.
Additionally, in 35 innings as captain, Kohli averages 63.96, up from a very modest 41.13 when he is not captain. All three of Kohli’s double centuries have come when he has been captain. Kohli’s conversion rate as captain is superhuman. Out of his 12 scores of 50+ as captain, eight have been over a hundred, and out of those eight, three have been double hundreds.
The entire Indian cricket team has also responded well to Kohli’s leadership. India are undefeated in Tests in 2016 winning seven of the 10 Tests played. This undefeated run has also led India to the summit of the Test rankings.
With Dhoni’s own individual form plummeting, the team’s performance under him in need of recovery and with a ready-made replacement in Virat Kohli, the time is right for Dhoni to step down from captaincy and concentrating on his form. Once again, India’s greatest captain has outthought us all.
(Jayant is currently working as a Data Scientist and constantly finds himself trying to explain statistical quirks in sports)
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