India committed a “tactical blunder” by dropping MS Dhoni to number seven in the batting order, said former stalwarts Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman, who were baffled by the move in the World Cup semi-final against New Zealand.
Hardik Pandya and Dinesh Karthik were sent ahead of Dhoni when India were positioned precariously at five for three and later 24 for four.
Eventually, it became a too tough a task to complete as India fell short by 18 runs.
“Dhoni should have come ahead of Pandya. It was a tactical blunder. Dhoni should have walked ahead of Dinesh Karthik. The stage was set for Dhoni. In 2015 final also, he promoted himself up to bat at number four ahead of Yuvraj Singh and won the World Cup,” rued Laxman.
Former skipper Ganguly said it’s not just about Dhoni’s batting but his calming effect on the young batsmen, batting from the other end.
Rishabh Pant was set but threw away his wicket when he attacked spinner Mitchell Santner. Skipper Virat Kohli was seen having an animated chat with coach Ravi Shastri immediately after Pant’s dismissal.
“India needed experience at that stage. If Dhoni was there when Pant was batting, he would not have allowed Pant to play that shot against the breeze. In England, it’s a big factor. He would have told him to go after pacer, when mid-off and mid-on is up, because he is good at that.
“Dhoni should have batted up. You need that composure and not just his batting. He would not have allowed wickets to fall in a cluster. Dhoni was there when Jadeja batted. Communication is his strength. You can’t have Dhoni at number seven,” Ganguly told official broadcaster Star Sports.
“As a finisher, he still has tremendous respect. He can still clear the field and that’s why he left it for last. It’s not that he can’t hit sixes but he thinks that’s the way to win ODI matches,” he added.
Iconic batsmen Sachin Tendulkar too felt skipper Virat Kohli made a mistake by not promoting Dhoni up the order.
“The question here can be, in a crunch moment like this, would you not think of promoting Dhoni with experience on his back? Towards the end, he kept talking to (Ravindra) Jadeja and he was controlling things.
“Maybe instead of Hardik, Dhoni should have come up. Batting Dinesh Karthik at number 5 was slightly out of the box I felt,” he said.
Ganguly said the biggest mistake Indian selectors made in the last one and a half years was not finding a solid middle order.
“The one criticism (for selectors) is that they fiddled around the middle order.”
“You can’t always depend on Rohit and Virat,” said Laxman.
Looking forward, Ganguly said, “What India need to do is to push Rishabh Pant to number five. Kohli can bat at number four if KL Rahul is the solution at number three when Shikhar Dhawan comes back. India will have to identify the middle order batsmen and persist with them.”
“That’s the only mistake selectors made. You can’t depend on Jadeja (to win matches by leaving it for lower order).