Having brushed aside New Zealand in the first one-day international on Sunday, most of the India players chose to rest, but skipper MS Dhoni toiled at the Feroz Shah Kotla nets.
Always the one to orchestrate India’s net sessions, he cut a lonely figure on Tuesday as he tried to manoeuvre the bowlers, especially spinners. Suresh Raina gave him company, along with 5-6 other players who are coming up the India ranks.
Practice sessions prior to ODIs in the past were often lit up by Dhoni’s massive and carefree hits that sent onlookers scampering. The chutzpah, however, was missing and Tuesday’s session meandered to a close after Dhoni tried his hand against almost all types of bowling, producing only a few lusty hits.
With India’s performances on the up and Virat Kohli the focus, these are desperate times for the limited-overs skipper. His aura as a finisher is diminished, and the time has come to redefine his role.
He has promoted himself up the order, batting at No 5. The idea is to reorient his skills from that of a hard-hitting finisher that made him the cash cow for the BCCI to playing a consolidating role.
It has been exactly a year since he last scored a half-century in ODIs (92* vs South Africa in Indore). Since then, in the nine opportunities, he has looked more like a batsman searching for balance in his batting.
The Dharamsala innings was probably an apt example of a man looking to redefine himself. He didn’t get a chance to bat in the meaningless ODIs in Zimbabwe, and before that the ODIs in Australia proved largely lacklustre.
There is a growing perception he is feeling the pressure.
“He would be a bit disappointed with his recent personal performances. But if he keeps the last few months’ performances off his mind, everything should be fine. We saw he was looking good in the previous game but unfortunately he was run out,” Anshuman Gaekwad, former India batsman, coach and selector said.
“He has achieved a lot and is vastly experienced. He only has to perform as a batsman; as captain he is still good, has experience to back himself up. Importantly, he is fit to play and isn’t a liability to the team.”
While officials talk about him being in control and deputy Kohli having great respect for him, there is no doubt Dhoni needs to ramp up the numbers to stay relevant, especially with so many youngsters around who have a new role model.
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