India vs West Indies: Are MS Dhoni, Ajinkya Rahane only playing for their own futures or for cause of the team?
What explains Rahane’s 91-ball 60 and Dhoni’s 114-ball 54? Throughout the series, both batsmen have looked more intent on having big scores against their names than responding smartly to the needs of the team.
It is time to ask the great Indian team some unflattering questions. Are they as infallible as they are being made out to be? Is the aura of greatness just a bubble that can be pricked anytime by a determined opponent, even a low quality one?
Just as everyone thought the Windies-India contest was a stark case of talent and potential mismatch, the latter has stunned their fans by succumbing to a shock defeat, raising serious doubts about their capacity to be consistent with success.
To put it bluntly, there is no reason why India should have lost the fourth ODI. The 190-run target was never an intimidating one and batting conditions in Antigua were far less challenging than the earlier match a couple of days ago, which India won by 93 runs.
They had two fifty-plus scores — Ajinkya Rahane’s 60 and MS Dhoni’s 54 — and it only needed small support from other batsmen to cross the finishing line easily. The West Indians had inducted no surprise firepower to their attack to flummox the rivals. Unless they were trying to lose, the Indian team could not have lost.
However, that does not tell the full story about the chinks in the Indian batting, which became apparent after their loss to Pakistan in the Champions Trophy. Once the top order collapses without too many runs on the board, the rest of the batting appears shaky.
West Indian skipper Jason Holder put it correctly when he said, “India’s top order has been doing well. It’s all about getting Shikhar Dhawan, Rahane and Virat Kohli as soon as possible.” In the Champions Trophy final, India’s batting collapsed soon after Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Kohli departed early. Sunday’s match was a near repetition despite opener Rahane coming good with 60 runs.
Now, what explains Rahane’s 91-ball 60 and Dhoni’s 114-ball 54?
It’s befuddling to say the least. Throughout the series, both batsmen have looked more intent on having big scores against their names than responding smartly to the needs of the team. In the last match both ended up with run-a-ball knocks but not before dragging the game to the slow lane in the initial and middle phases.
Both have enough experience and ability to switch gears at the right time to keep the momentum going at the right pace. Their recent knocks suggest that their priority is to get a 50+ score first and then step up. It does not matter how many balls are consumed in the process.
Does it have to do with the insecurity about their place in the side? Possibly. There are strong contenders for the opener’s slot and there is every chance of Rahane not finding place in the eleven when Rohit is back. He is a batsman with sound technique, but he has simply been too slow on several occasions. If a batsman has taken his time to settle down and consumed several overs it is only expected that he would stay back to complete the run chase. It’s not happening in Rahane’s case.
The case of Dhoni is a bizarre one. Here’s a man known to be a great finisher. His contribution in India’s run chases over the last decade has been spectacular indeed.
But these days he seems to have got into the habit of dragging the match to the end overs with slow batting, so slow that one is left wondering whether it is the same Dhoni of yore who just blasted the opposite team out of the game with such ease.
When he plays 114 balls, nearly 20 overs, you expect him to win the match for the team. But that was not the case yesterday. In fact, that has not been the case in recent times. Like Rahane, he seems to be intent on getting a good personal score first before bringing the team into the picture. Is this his desperation to be in contention for the 2019 World Cup? Well, perhaps.
Whatever the case, such batting does not help the cause of the team. It does not help that the likes of Ravindra Jadeja and Yuvraj Singh have been less than consistent with their batting. The big question before the selectors should now be whether Dhoni, Yuvraj and Rahane should be in the one-day squad in the first place. This defeat may not mean much to the team but it comes as a signal for introspection.
Jadeja sustained the injury while attempting to take a catch during a match against Royal Challengers Bangalore on 4 May
Virat Kohli has struggled for runs in the ongoing edition of the Indian Premier League.
The Super Kings had handed the captaincy baton to Ravindra Jadeja but the left-handed all-rounder gave it back to MS Dhoni midway as the side had a disappointing run in the competition.