10 February 2008

Dhoni uses brain in Indian victory

When India toured England last summer, I accused MS Dhoni of having no brain. Having hit Pietersen for two sixes, when on 92 and with his team on over 500 batting first in the 3rd Test, needing only a draw for a series victory, Dhoni perished on the boundary going for hatrick of sixes. Given the dominant position Dhoni and India were in, the post inspired a few comments of disagreement! As it turned out, the game was a boring draw and India won the series.

In between that series and now, Dhoni captained India to victory in the Twenty20 with some really attacking captaincy in a game which is generally considered to be about containing the batsmen. Dhoni kept attacking fielders in place, particularly slips, when other captains didn't, and reaped the rewards as wickets once again proved to be the best way of reducing the batting sides' run rate.

Today, Dhoni captained India to victory over Australia in the latest Commonwealth Bank ODI. Chasing only 159 India were going well at 89-2 in the 22nd over, with Tendulkar well set, but 3 wickets fell relatively quickly and India found themselves at 102-5 in the 29th over when Dhoni came to the wicket. In the end Dhoni and Sharma, who was the more dominant batsman in their partnership, took India to a 5 wicket victory with 25 balls to spare.

What impressed me was the fact that Dhoni was content to play defensively, knowing that if he and Sharma could see their way past the main 4 bowlers, Ponting would have to use Clarke and Symonds to finish off the overs, so while he only scored 17, the fact that he used up 54 balls to get that 17 was the key. If he'd scored 17 in 2 overs and then exposed his tail to Lee et al, India may well have lost, but Dhoni used his head and - along with Sharma - saw his team to victory.

So I take back my comment that Dhoni doesn't have a brain! It will be interesting to see how he does when he takes over the Test captaincy, assuming he does, after Kumble.