India’s Greatest Batsmen and Mahendra Singh Dhoni
The man with the Midas touch! How does the India captain measure up as a batsman? Our expert throws some light on MS Dhoni’s performance.
Dhoni has had a spectacular run as captain over the past 12 months - World Cup victory, number one Test team, IPL triumph and Champions League trophy. These victories should put him in the running for ‘winning-est sportsman of the year’, though Novak Djokovic will end up winning that title come December 2011 (no, it’s not an actual title, but it should be - you ought to be able to recognize the greatest champion across all sports for a calendar year). But Dhoni has not had the greatest run with the bat, particularly in Test matches. His last Test century came over a year ago on a flat Kolkata pitch on which four Indian batsmen scored hundreds in the innings. He’s averaged 26 with the bat over the past 12 months and his overall Test average stands at 38. That’s not bad for a keeper who bats at seven. But this is Mahendra Singh Dhoni, a man who is on course to become one of India’s greatest batsmen ever, at least in the limited overs game.
So how good has Dhoni been in ODIs? He’s 49-88 (Average-Strike Rate, rounded off). In comparison, Tendulkar is 45-86, Ponting is 43-81 while Lara finished at 40-80. Bevan wound up at 54-74, Kallis is at 45-73 and Richards is 47-90 (which is mind-bogglingly brilliant considering the era he played in). Now granted Dhoni has about a third of the career runs of a Sachin and still has a way to go in his career, but at his current pace he’s on track to be rated one of the greatest ODI batsmen ever. And it’s not just about the numbers - Dhoni can also talk about delivering quality performances when they matter (World Cup final or in tight chases in general). His critics talk about his unorthodox technique or his not-so-elegant shots, but the bottom line is the man gets the job done and finds a way to adapt to different situations.
With Tests though, Dhoni has lost his way a bit. Yes, there have been a few unlucky dismissals, but for the most part he hasn’t batted well. Here’s a look at where Dhoni stands amongst the India’s greatest run-scorers in Tests and ODIs.
We are simply looking at overall averages in Tests and ODIs, while ignoring other variables like strike rate and era the batsmen played in. Tendulkar stands out for his ability to deliver in both forms of the game. Laxman and Gavaskar show up to be clear Test specialists - amongst the best in the five day game but didn’t have the same success in ODIs. Who’s the other surprising ‘Test specialist’ in there? Virender Sehwag, who really has no business being there (he should be in the Tendulkar category), but is highly inconsistent in ODIs and only averages 35.
By contrast, Yuvraj and Ganguly are ODI specialists, who thrived far better in the 50 over format. Dhoni seems to be the most extreme ODI specialist - the next Bevan - if he keeps going at his current pace. However, he really should be doing better in Tests and he’ll be hoping to get back into some form during the England series. He was averaging about 43 is Tests one year ago and India will need him to get going against a strong opposition.