Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Come back MS

On 21st Jan 2006, playing in only his fifth test match, MS Dhoni, apparently Indian-test-captain-in-waiting, made 148 against Pakistan, rescuing India from a slightly precarious position (albeit on a pretty dead track). Since that innings, the following has been his sequence of scores in test cricket:

13, 18, 5, 16, 16, 64, 5, 19, 69, 9, 29, 20, 3, 19, 5, 18, 34, 47, 36, 17*, 51*, 0, 76*, 5, 92, 36, 57, 50*, 37, 0, 11, 2, 35, 8* = 932 runs in 29 completed innings for an average of some 32.13 (his overall test average stands at 35.85).

MS has not scored a century since that innings, and by and large his batting simply hasn't come up to expectations. He has acquired the reputation of a very good one-day closer (and does not blast innings like that 183* against Sri Lanka) but his test batting remains mired in mediocrity. He can do much better, and its not entirely clear why he has remained thus. One thought that comes to mind that ever since the day MS suffered his brain meltdown at Mumbai against England on that infamous last day as India collapsed, he has chosen the path of excessive diffidence over his natural attacking instincts. While this has netted him some praise (as in the case of his 76* to save the Lords test last summer), the run production has not been forthcoming. Some might suggest too, that he doesn't have the technique to score more than 35 runs an innings in test matches. But if thats the case, surely MS is good enough to average 35 in test matches batting his natural style? What we have instead, is a man who pokes around when he comes to bat, and seems to hope he will not dab one to slips or the keeper for a while. In short, he fails to inspire confidence in tests, and I have the sense of a talent slipping away.

One huge Indian batting talent has already wasted this tour of Australia: Yuvraj will look back on this series with a huge sense of regret (hopefully). Dhoni shouldn't let this chance pass him by. The stage is set for him at Perth. If he does his usual dabbing, nudging, nurdling, he will nick one sooner or later, and that'll be it. He should try and remember the attacking instincts that got him to where he is (or, at least, into the Indian team, and earned him his early fame). I suspect Irfan Pathan might have a trick or two to show him.

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