Not for the first time in recent memory the knives are out for MS Dhoni. But this time he has had to share the brunt of the criticism with Umesh Yadav. Indian cricket fans are blaming the duo for the narrow defeat in the first T-20 international against Australia at Visakhapatnam on Sunday.
On the face of it the lambasting might appear to be justified. Dhoni took 37 balls to get an unbeaten 29 and a strike rate of 78 is bewildering in cricket’s shortest format where anything less than 100 is considered unacceptable. And after Jasprit Bumrah’s brilliant bowling in the 19th over – he conceded just two runs and picked up two wickets – it was largely expected that Yadav would be able to defend 14 runs. Australia’s winning run came off the last ball with No’s 8 and 9 at the crease.
On closer scrutiny the criticism against Dhoni does seem to be unfair. He walked in at 80 for three after ten overs and ideally the situation was perfect for a player of his class, skill and experience. What he could not have bargained for was the collapse which saw India slide sharply to 109 for seven in the 17th over. Dhoni was left with a long tail.
Under normal circumstances Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal should come in at No 10 and No 11. But here there were batting at No 8 and No 9. Dhoni had to take most of the strike and by keeping away his partners from the bowling had to turn down many singles that were there on offer – a tactic found acceptable by Glenn Maxwell. “With the wicket being difficult I think it was right for him to try and farm the strike,’’ said the Australian all-rounder. It is worth mentioning that the batsmen below Dhoni in the batting order made a combined four off 17 balls.
There is no denying the fact that in his 38th year Dhoni is not the Dhoni of old but as he has shown recently he has it in him to be a great finisher whether batting first or chasing. This time however he was defeated by the presence of the extended tail.
As regards Yadav his economy rate has always been a problem in all formats of the game. He is a wicket taker who believes in bowling fast and being always on the attack. In the process he tends to be profligate and if the selectors feel that his bowling is more suited to Test cricket then he can be omitted from the limited overs squad.
In the ultimate analysis neither Dhoni nor Yadav were responsible for India’s defeat but the middle order slide and the unduly long tail.