India’s 34-run loss against Australia at Sydney in the opening ODI despite Rohit Sharma’s 22nd hundred put the spotlight on MS Dhoni and his innings.
The former India captain’s 51 off 96 balls, in a stand of 137 with Rohit, had helped India recover from three early setbacks, but it, coupled with Dhoni’s untimely dismissal leaving India with too much to do at the end.
Speaking to the press at the end of the match, Rohit opined that Dhoni would best fit in at number four in the current Indian batting order. “Personally always feel that Dhoni batting at number four will be ideal for the team but we have got Rayudu who has done really well now at number four. It totally depends on what the captain and coach think about it. Personally, I would be happy if Dhoni bats at four,” Rohit said.
Since the last World Cup, Dhoni has batted at number four in only 9 ODIs, scoring 245 runs at 27.22. While India has been on the lookout to sort their middle order for sometime now, Dhoni’s lack of power hitting lower down has only increased their need to find the right personnel in the middle. India have played a number of batsmen at that position hoping to find the perfect fit, with the likes of KL Rahul, Ambati Rayudu, Suresh Raina and even Hardik Pandya among others getting a chance. Heading into the World Cup, India are still pondering the right answers for that conundrum.
“If you look at his overall batting strike rate its 85-90, around 90,” Rohit said about Dhoni’s ability to hit the ball big. “But when he came out to bat today we had already lost three wickets and the guys were bowling pretty well at that point. So we had to respect that spell and we wanted to get partnerships.”
Speaking about his and Dhoni’s partnership today, Rohit said they were trying to ensure that they stem the rot, build a stand and look at putting pressure on certain bowlers later. “It’s pretty simple with him (Dhoni), doesn’t complicate things, as he came on to bat we spoke about building a partnership because it was crucial at that point and it was great to see him come and bat at number five. We lost three early wickets but he is keen to go out there and bat and get those runs as well. So it’s a good sign for us that he showed he can come out and bat any time the team wants him to bat. And with him, he tries to keep things very simple and I am pretty similar to that.
“We never discuss about that target and we only wanted to bat and see where we go after 25 overs and after we got the 100 run partnership we decided that this is the time we need to slightly kick on and make sure that try and put pressure back on bowlers. Till then it was just bowlers dominating and hitting their lengths because we lost 3 wickets and we were under pressure to build the partnership so obviously that point we only decided that we have got to take the game forward and once we got the 100-run partnership the mindset changed and we decided to kick on and get 6-plus an over.”
Despite the result, Rohit was pleased with the lessons learnt but reiterated that it was time to execute the skills to perfection under pressure. “We were obviously well behind the run rate at that point after the early damage but these things happen and these are the games that will teach you a lot as a batsman,” he noted. “You will be put under pressure, there will be times when you have to combat these kind of games when you lose wickets. I think it was a good learning but we’ve said that enough about learning now, it’s time to go an execute – take the pressure, absorb the pressure. International cricket is all about absorbing pressure, today was the perfect example, we were put under pressure and not able to absorb it.”