CHENNAI: The whispers are slowly taking the shape of a rant. “Why isn’t MS Dhoni batting up the order?” Fans and critics seem to be on the same page as Chennai Super Kings suddenly find themselves in an air-pocket during a bumpy IPL journey.
Two back-to-back losses have left CSK on par with a bunch of other teams in a close struggle for top-four berths. And during the course of these two losses, in which CSK struggled to push the accelerator at crucial junctures of their innings, Dhoni batted a total of four balls.
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What’s baffling is the fact that ‘Captain Cool’ hasn’t been struggling for form, yet he is reluctant to promote himself up the order. Even in the four balls that he faced against Punjab Kings on Sunday, two went for sixes and that helped CSK go past the 200-run mark.
Dhoni has been allowing the likes of Ambati Rayudu and Ravindra Jadeja – who aren’t exactly setting the stage on fire – to bat ahead of himself. It has allowed the skipper very little time to get those quickfire 30s and 40s that used to prove match-winning.
Sources in the know indicate a couple of reasons behind this move. The first is that Dhoni is carrying an injury and has been playing through pain. It is difficult for him to bat for a long time because that would mean he would have to run fast between the wickets. “That can be slightly difficult as Dhoni keeps wickets too. At 41, the body has undergone its share of wear and tear and it’s not easy to put such strain on the body, especially with the injury,” a source said.
The second reason is that Dhoni, since his international retirement, feels he is better equipped to take on pacers and use the pace of the bowlers to clear the fence. Spin, especially wrist-spin, has troubled him a bit and there have been occasions when he has been unable to rotate the strike.
So with a deep batting line-up and designated spin-hitters like Shivam Dube in the team, Dhoni feels comfortable batting down the order. “His practice ahead of IPL is also centred around playing just a few balls and hitting sixes. And at this stage of his career, Dhoni probably believes Jadeja is a better bet to take on the bowling than him,” the source added.
The IPL is reaching its business end and CSK need to win at least three of their last five matches to make the last-four stage. Dhoni, too, in all probability will call it quits after this edition and he wants to make it memorable for himself as anybody else.
“He is the best judge of his body and what needs to be done. If he feels it is important to promote himself for the team’s cause, he may do it in the last few games,” the source added.
Chahar may be fit ‘soon’
Medium-pacer Deepak Chahar, who suffered a hamstring injury earlier, is in recovery mode and is travelling with the team. It was indicated that he may be available “soon”. A return against Lucknow Super Giants on Wednesday can’t be ruled out.