Thursday, January 17, 2013

Dhoni: Demolition Man in ODIs


Dhoni: Demolition Man in ODIs

As India’s top order continues to misfire, MS Dhoni delivers in crunch situations.




New Delhi: The Indian batting has been revolving around its talismanic captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni for quite some time now. It was once again evident in the victory against England in Kochi on Tuesday when he pulled the team out after another top order failure.

It’s not for nothing that England captain Alastair Cook called Dhoni as the most difficult batsman to bowl at the death. Dhoni’s counterpunching knock of 72 off 66 balls — adding 108 in 10 overs withRavindra Jadeja — came after India were 119 for four at one stage.

The dependency on Dhoni’s batting has never been as stark as was seen in the ODI series against Pakistan and now England.

The top order has repeatedly crumbled and Dhoni has been the saviour.

It has made it all the more difficult for him to perform with the sword forever hanging over his head post the disastrous results in the past couple of Test series.

There have been growing calls to sack him as captain of the Test side, but Dhoni has gone about his job unruffled.

With the Test series against Australia to follow, Dhoni has hardly got any breathing space.

But keeping with his image of captain cool, he has given his best every time he has walked on to the field.

With the array of strokes that he has, and an ability to guide the innings with a calm head, Dhoni has been India’s best batsman in ODIs. And when he brings out his trademark helicopter stroke, it is a treat for the fans.

“He is certainly the crisis man of the Indian team,” former captain Ajit Wadekar told MAIL TODAY. “Earlier the Indian batting revolved around Sachin Tendulkar, then Dravid and even Virender Sehwag. Dhoni has taken over that role now. And with the top order not performing that well, Dhoni has taken the extra responsibility on his shoulders.” With the recent spate of poor performances by the top order that includes the like of Sehwag, Gambhir and Yuvraj Singh, the image of Dhoni, the batsman, has only got enhanced.

His century knock in the second ODI against Pakistan in Chennai, where he bailed out his team from a perilous 29 for five is already being ranked as one of the greatest ODI innings ever by an Indian.

Calm and calculative as ever, Dhoni stands amid the ruins collecting runs in bits and pieces.

The spadework done, Dhoni explodes the way only he can.

When Dhoni the batsman broke through the Indian ranks, he carved his own space in a team that had stroke- makers of the caliber of Tendulkar, Sehwag and Yuvraj. He came as a powerful hitter of the cricket ball, the strength in his wrists and forearms taking the ball to distance.

But over the years, Dhoni has moulded his game brilliantly to supplement his stroke- making ability. It seems he knows exactly when to grind and when to take the aerial route, and against which bowler.

The other attribute that makes Dhoni so dangerous is his running between the wickets. He will always have an eye on that scoreboard, and that makes him a master of managing an innings.

Without doubt he is one of fittest Indian cricketers in the world at the moment, as he showed in that knock in Chennai.

The combination of his large assembly of skills, some natural and some practiced with dedication, makes him one of the best finishers ODI cricket has seen.

“His biggest strength is that he keeps the scoreboard moving. He will never tire,” says Wadekar. “He is so confident about his ability. He leads by example. He is among the best finishers surely,” he says.

When he promoted himself up the order in that historic night at Wankhede, he won India the World Cup. But he has not done that often. Wadekar says it is because he is also the captain and he has to give confidence to the middle order.

“Don’t forget that he is leading the side and he has to think of so many things. He may not want to shatter the confidence of the middle order which is not amongst runs.”

Dharamsala set to host its first international cricket match


Dharamsala set to host its first international cricket match

Dharamsala, Jan 17 (IANS) This picturesque Himalayan hill station, which has lured hundreds of thousands of Westerners since Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama settled here in 1960, is all set witness its first international cricket match this month.
The Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA) is leaving no stone unturned to make the fifth and final ODI between India and England Jan 27 at its new showpiece venue, located at an altitude of 4,000 feet above sea level, with the mighty snow-clad Dhauladhar Ranges forming the backdrop, a warm and welcoming affair.
"If everything goes as planned, the stadium has the potential to become a permanent fixture for future international matches," HPCA president Anurag Thakur, a member of the Lok Sabha, told IANS.
The stadium, 250 km from state capital Shimla, has a 21,600-seating capacity, besides a world-class indoor stadium comprising video analysis facilities for both bowlers and players, a club lounge, restaurant, bar and banquet hall.
He said the popularity of the venue soared after the seven IPL matches in the past three seasons.
"We are going provide not only the players but also the spectators with a world-class facility," Thakur, the force behind the Rs.100 crore stadium and ultra-luxurious residential complex, said.
He said the HPCA has been working overtime to get the stadium ready for the match.
"For the players, the Pavilion residential complex is almost ready. It has 32 huts made of imported wood and 38 concrete rooms. A world-class multi-gym is the new addition," he added.
The Pavilion, overlooking the stadium, is some three kilometres from the stadium.
However, the HPCA admits the spectators might face problems in getting suitable accommodation.
The town has 56 registered hotels and guest houses with a bed capacity of 1,100. Similarly, McLeodganj, eight kilometres from Dharamsala, has around 91 registered hotels which can accommodate 1,000 people.
"We have got some bookings but we are advising spectators to get bookings at nearby destinations also like Palampur and Jwalamukhi," Mohit Sood, HPCA's press secretary, said.
There is no five-star hotel in the vicinity of this small town. Even the airport at Gaggal, near here, has been shut for over five months now.
Thakur said a request has been made to the civil aviation ministry to start special Air India flights during the match as lack of air connectivity might prove a hindrance to the arrival of cricket fans.
According to espncricinfo, the HPCA venue is the first in India to use winter rye grass scattered around the outfield, which prevents the grass from dying when temperatures fall below 10 degrees Celsius.
The stadium figured first on the international cricket map in 2005 when it hosted a warm-up tie between the touring Pakistan team and the Indian Board President's XI.
Since then, the stadium has hosted 24 matches in the Ranji Trophy, apart from hosting two ODIs between India Under 19 vs Australia Under 19 Sep 24 and 25, 2005.

Cook is all praise for Dhoni

Cook is all praise for Dhoni

Cook said Dhoni's late-order surge changed the complexion of the match at Kochi.

Kochi: For Alastair Cook, the 100-odd runs in the death overs was what made the difference between the two teams on Tuesday, in the second one-day International.

From 177 for five at the end of the 40th over, India went on to post 285 for six in 50 overs. The host finally won the match by 127 runs.

“India dominated specially after the 40th over. We gave away 100-odd runs in the last 10 overs. If we could have taken a couple of wickets and restricted them to 250-260, it would have been still gettable,” Cook said at the post-match presentation ceremony.
“It’s very tough when you’ve got people like Dhoni batting. You get exposed when you don’t quite get the skills right,” Cook added.

Dhoni made 72 while Man of the MatchRavindra Jadeja was unbeaten on 61. The bowlers skittled out the visitors for a paltry 158 in just 36 overs to level the five-match series 1-1.

Cook was all praise for Dhoni’s big-hitting prowess and said his late-order surge changed the complexion of the match. “He (Dhoni) is probably the best player in the world in those situations, in these conditions.”

Dhoni sent the pace trio of Steven Finn, Jade Dernbach and Chris Woakes to all parts of the park in the closing stages but Cook declined to introduce the occasional spin of Joe Root, which the English captain said wasn’t an option.

“You’re always going to get a hindsight, but probably one batsman you don’t want an off-spinner bowling to is Dhoni. We’ve seen him a number of times and with a spinner at the end, it’s very hard to bowl to him,” he said.

Good that I misread Kochi wicket: Dhoni

Good that I misread Kochi wicket: Dhoni

While the India captain thought the pitch to be flat one, the spinners got enough turn to help the team to a comfortable win.

Kochi: India’s thumping 127-run victory on Tuesday may suggest that captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni had complete control over the match.

But surprisingly, Dhoni, at the post-match presentation ceremony, admitted that he misread the pitch. While the India captain thought the pitch to be flat one, the India spinners got enough turn to help the team to a comfortable win.

The following are excerpts

Mahendra Singh Dhoni: Everyone performed well. We didn’t get a good start, initially the openers were finding it difficult as the ball was seaming around a bit. Yuvraj and Kohli gave us the platform.

It seemed like a wicket that may flatten, we thought it will dry up and the spinners may not get much turn. Good that I was wrong and our spinners got turn. It was not a wicket where you could win the toss and bowl first.

The onus was on the batsmen. When I was batting with Raina, we thought let us look for 240 or 250, and then when we are settled, lets target 260… We ended up getting 25 more.

We have our own things to worry about. The last time we played well as a batting unit, our bowlers were more experienced, who knew what to do in the Powerplays and death overs, how to use the new balls. We’re going through a stage when we don’t have the same firepower when it comes to the bowling department. Our batting department has also not been able to convert those starts into big innings. But we’re fielding really well, and that’s a big positive for us.

If you look at the good side, our batsmen are getting starts. Yes, I would like them to convert their starts to a big innings so that it won’t put pressure on the rest.

Today’s (Tuesday) performance was very important for Jadeja. Till now, he had done well as a bowler. He had scored runs, the fifties and forties, but it’s important for him to get these runs going, because it eases the pressure on the lower order.

He’s someone who can hit big sixes. This innings will really help him because, it will help him read the game, where he can hit the bowlers and what the bowlers are looking to do. We’re all really happy with the amount of runs he’s got for the side.

We need to groom the bowlers we have now, it’s not only about Bhuvneshwar. He is someone who can swing the ball both ways.

He is not exceptionally quick, but he bowls at a decent pace. He is quite street-smart, he knows where to bowl and what needs to be done. With a bit more exposure he can start executing the yorkers well and mix them up with the slower ones. And not to forget Shami.

He is someone who bowls at a good pace. So we need to keep going with these guys, back them and give them a bit of cushioning so that they become very good bowlers for us. These guys are doing a good job.

The Helicopter Shot fetches me a lot of runs. It’s not an easy shot to play with a heavy bat. It's something I used to play when I played with the tennis ball. That’s something everybody plays in India and everyone thinks he is Sachin Tendulkar. That has really helped me, especially to have good command in the last 10 overs when the bowlers are looking for yorkers, or even the short-pitched delivery, which you can flick.

The next game is in my city, Ranchi, and it will be very special. I think the wicket was a perfect Test wicket, something for the fast bowlers and some turn for the spinners.

It’s a bit unfair for the spinners to bowl with one extra fielder inside. It becomes difficult for the spinners to contain the batsmen in the last 10 overs, especially if the opposition have wickets in hand.

It’s a bit unfair on bowlers, but over the years we have seen bowlers adjusting to it.

Ravindra Jadeja: I enjoyed my batting… The wicket was good. The ball was coming on and I tried to play cricketing shots. I played for Kochi in the IPL in 2011, so I knew the wicket was a bit slow. But once you get in, you can score runs. Mahibhai was telling me ‘don’t throw away your wicket’. While bowling, I was talking to Rainabhai, I said ‘the ball is turning, so I might get wickets on this surface’.

India smash England to level series


India smash England to level series

2ND ODI: CSK boys, Bhuvaneshwar delivery 127-run win in Kochi.

Where are those Jadeja jokes now?

Match Scores 

It was hot and humid, the wicket was seaming and India got off to a bad start in the Kochi ODI. But two turn-arounds, the first triggered by Suresh Raina and MS Dhoni, and the second by Bhuvaneshwar Kumar’s game-winning burst of three wickets, delivered India a big win. 

Electing to bat, India posted 285-6, thanks in big part to a frantic 96-run partnership in the last 10 overs between Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja, who had a great game all-round before a packed crowd at the Nehru Stadium. 

England began promisingly despite losing Ian Bell cheaply. But what really did them in was Bhuvaneshwar’s trademark in swing. In one spell, the young seamer from Uttar Pradesh accounted for Alastair Cook, Kevin Pietersen and Eoin Morgan.

Pietersen, who looked in great touch with a quick 42, had been walking down the wicket to cover  Bhuvaneshwar’s swing. It prompted Dhoni to stand up to the stumps to keep Pietersen in the crease. It worked. Rooted to the crease, Pietersen missed an inswinger and the game changed decisively with the wicket. 

POOR START, AGAIN

As for India’s batsmen, Kochi was the same old tale playing old. The top and middle order failed, just as it has done all winter long. And so it was left for the lower order to rally around their captain and take the score to respectability. 

Dhoni played another brilliant innings at No. 6. Will he bring himself up the order?Jade Dernbach began the day bowling a line that would be perfect for right-handers: on a good length, moving away from the off-stump. For left-handers, it was leg-side filth. He had conceded an astonishing 66% of his runs in the Rajkot ODI behind the wicket on the leg-side. His troubles continued in his first over where he began with a five-wide down the legs of Gambhir. 

But Gambhir has had problems of his own. Out of form, the odds were against him. The moment Dernbach managed to land a ball on the cut strip, it bent back into the stumps and found its way through the gap between pad and bat. 

Next over, Rahane was bowled by Finn, courtesy a bat-pad gap so large, a Mumbai realtor could have erected a skyscraper on it. Gambhir’s rut, along with Rahane’s inability to cash in on the opportunities given to him at Virender Sehwag’s expense meant that India were once again on the back-foot. 

CHANCES WASTED

Yuvraj Singh led the counter-attack with some crunching drives. He once stood tall to Dernbach and punched the ball through cover for four, invoking his 19-year-old self who could smoke a ball through the off-side. 

Both he and Virat Kohli have been getting off to starts but not producing the big innings. In the last few months, Yuvraj has had plenty of chances in good batting conditions but we’re yet to see the one big performance that would repay the faith posed in him. Today, however, he was unlucky. Sweeping James Tredwell, Yuvraj edged the ball to his pads but umpire Steve Davis still upheld the LBW appeal.

On the other hand, Kohli had himself to blame. Short of runs all winter, he worked hard to 37 off 54. He threw it all away, slicing Chris Woakes to the man on the cover boundary, walking back hitting himself on the head with his own bat. 

Raina did better than Yuvraj and Kohli. But with these great batting conditions, he could have made a hundred today. Having worked for his fifty, he was bowled swinging across the line to Steven Finn. It set the stage for the Jadeja and Dhoni show. 

THE ENTERTAINMENT

This season, Dhoni has been the best of India’s batsmen, at least in the ODIs. But he has continued holding himself down to No. 6 instead of bringing himself up the order and use the chance to make bigger scores. 

He had a reprieve on 7 when a caught-behind shout was turned down of Woakes. Replays showed no deviation off the bat but there was a hint of an edge provided by the microphone. Dhoni made England pay for it. 

The massive boundaries at the Nehru Stadium have been considerably shortened with the ropes being brought up. Not that this would have mattered to Dhoni. He played some fearsome bottom-hand strokes that rocketed to the fence. He rammed Woakes down the ground and then brought out his helicopter shot against Finn and Dernbach. 

But the differentiator of the day was Jadeja’s. India were looking at best at a score of 250 when Jadeja got over his tentative start — thanks to Dhoni's timely tempering of the young player — and started lofting the pacers. England bowled a poor line to him. Jadeja kept slogging the leg-and-middle balls over the infield. He took 20 off the final over from Dernbach, providing the icing to an extraordinary finish to the innings.

Dhoni helps India draw level with crushing win


Dhoni helps India draw level with crushing win

India 285 for 6 (Dhoni 72, Jadeja 61*) beat England 158 (Pietersen 42, Bhuvneshwar 3-29) by 127 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

MS Dhoni sends one to the stands during his knock of 72, India v England, 2nd ODI, Kochi, January 15, 2013
MS Dhoni fired India to a total that proved far too good for England © BCCI

Kochi, in tourist terms at least, is the gateway to the backwaters but India, 1-0 down in the ODI series with four to play, were in no mood to take that journey. MS Dhoni, impassioned not just with the bat but just as strikingly in every aspect of his captaincy, made that abundantly clear with every muscle flexed and every order barked and it was England who were sunk without trace in a 127-run defeat.
England's pursuit of 286 always looked a daunting task and it became an improbable one from the moment that Bhuvneshwar Kumar removed Kevin Pietersen and Eoin Morgan in the space of three balls in an outstanding new-ball spell. There is nothing like a humid evening in Kochi to perk up a swing bowler and Bhuvneshwar, a 22-year-old from Uttar Pradesh playing in only his fifth ODI, also summoned impressive stamina as Dhoni ran his 10-over spell through without interruption and was rewarded with his best international figures of 3 for 29.
But the match had swung India's way much earlier than that - and it was Dhoni, a captain deemed to be under pressure, and Ravindra Jadeja who were at the heart of it. England had sensed they held an element of control, at the very least, for much of India's innings but 108 runs from the last 10 overs, 68 from the last five, shook that notion to the core.
As so often, Dhoni was left to plot a route to victory, wresting control from England's attack with 72 from 66 balls. He creates his own virtuous circle, creating a febrile atmosphere and then feeding off it, in turn causing a crowd of around 70,000 to roar with even greater intensity. He fell four balls from the end of the innings when he sliced Dernbach to Joe Root at deep cover - a suitable end because Dernbach's unwavering policy of bowling wide to him outside off stump had been England's most effective counter.
India approached the last 10 overs in unconvincing shape, at 177 for 5, having been confounded in the batting Powerplay by the variations of Dernbach and Steven Finn, which conceded only 21 runs in five overs and dismissed their batting mainstay, Suresh Raina, in the process.
Dhoni had failed to manage India's run chase in Rajkot, holing out at long-off against Dernbach's slower ball. He received a near-replica in the closing overs but this time his hands were fast and his brain quicksilver and he muscled it well beyond the boundary rope. It was a statement about how things would be different this time.
What Dhoni stirred, Jadeja delivered, rounding things off by taking 14 from Dernbach's last three deliveries to finish with an unbeaten 61 from 37 balls. They were impressive statistics for a batsman who had been overshadowed until the last. As for Dernbach, for all his relative success against Dhoni, he still spilled 73 from nine overs.

Smart stats

  • The margin of victory - 127 runs - is the second-highest for India in ODIs against England.
  • England's score of 158 is their third-lowest all-out totalin ODIs against India.
  • India's Nos. 5, 6 and 7 all scored half-centuries, only the fifth time this has ever happened in ODIs, and the first such instance for India.
  • The 96-run stand between MS Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja came at a run-rate of 9.60 per over, the fourth-best rate for a 50-plus stand for India against England. The top three such stands for the sixth wicket for India versus England all involve Dhoni and Jadeja.
  • Jadeja's strike rate of 164.86 (61 off 37 balls) is thefourth-highest for a 50-plus score by an Indian against England.
  • Since the 2011 World Cup, Dhoni has averaged 83.28 at a strike rate of 92.39, with 11 fifty-plus scores in 27 innings.
  • Dhoni averages 57.78 in 118 ODI innings as captain. His average is the highest among captains who've batted at least 15 innings.
For Chris Woakes, who was playing his first ODI in India after his late inclusion for the injured Tim Bresnan, it was an examination far beyond anything he had ever experienced. He thought he had Dhoni caught at the wicket when he had made 6 from nine balls but it was impossible for the umpire Vineet Kulkarni to hear a nick in such a din and normal-speed TV replays, which were all that were shown, made things no clearer.
Raina had made 55 from 78 balls before he dragged on a pull at Finn and departed bashing the peak of his helmet with his bat in frustration, just as Virat Kohil had done earlier when he flayed Woakes to the cover boundary. Raina prospered primarily against the offspin of James Tredwell, two slog sweeps for six representing the highlight of his innings, and ensured that Tredwell, who took four wickets in the opening ODI in Rajkot, did not repeat the mayhem. As for England's bonus allrounder in the opening match, Joe Root, who bowled nine overs relatively unscathed, there was no encore.
India's opening pair did not survive long, Gautam Gambhir and Ajinkya Rahane both departing by the fifth over. Finn and Dernbach, also impressive with the new ball, had clamoured for several lbw appeals before they prospered by hitting the stumps.
Dernbach's nip-backer to bowl Gambhir through the gate was a delivery made to order. There are few more productive, or less convincing, shots in ODIs than Gambhir's dab through gully for four, bat hanging away from his body and he had played it the previous ball much to the bowler's frustration. The ball that cut back was the classic retort. Finn also brought a delivery back in his next over, late inswing accounting for Rahane as he shuffled across his crease.
India's frustration grew when Yuvraj Singh fell to an erroneous lbw decision by Steve Davis, who did not see - and, like Kulkarni in the case of Dhoni, certainly could not hear in such a deafening atmosphere - a deflection off the glove as he swept at Tredwell. With no DRS in use, Yuvraj had to take his punishment, although he did not do so without a stray comment or two.
So, for that matter, did Alastair Cook in England's reply, with Bhuvneshwar fortunate to win an lbw decision with a delivery that pitched outside leg stump. Cook should have been run out on 17 when Jadeja failed to pick up cleanly at midwicket to take advantage of complete confusion between Pietersen and Cook over a leg-side single. Dhoni's annoyance was clear, but Bhuvneshwar's eighth over had an impact on the course of the match and the captain's mood.
First Pietersen (42 from 44 balls) was bowled by one that jagged back as he sought to run into the off side and two balls later Bhuvneshwar found movement away from the left-handed Morgan from a good length and Dhoni dived to claim one his finest catches against England this winter, in what has been a somewhat troubled wicketkeeping sequence.
England, four down for 74 by the 17th over, had much rebuilding to do. But the ball turned for India's spinners and it was jerry-built stuff. Craig Kieswetter and Joe Root assessed a while then both got out, Kieswetter unimpressively as he pushed a short ball from R Ashwin to midwicket, Root sliced apart by Jadeja's arm ball. Woakes' managed a second-ball duck - another Jadeja arm ball to enhance his excellent match -and England's tail quickly subsided, in no doubt about the extent of the challenge ahead.