Former captain Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman said India committed a “tactical blunder” by demoting Mahendra Singh Dhoni to number seven in the World Cup semifinal against New Zealand, a move that left them baffled.
Hardik Pandya and Dinesh Karthik were sent ahead of Dhoni after India was reduced to five for three and then 24 for four.
Eventually, it became a task too tough to complete, as India fell short by 18 runs.
“Dhoni should have come ahead of Pandya. It was a tactical blunder. Dhoni should have walked ahead of Dinesh Karthik. Stage was set for Dhoni. In 2011 final also, he promoted himself up to bat at number four ahead of Yuvraj Singh and won the World Cup,” rued Laxman.
Ganguly said it’s not just about Dhoni’s batting but also his calming influence on the young batsmen at the other end.
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Pant was set but lost his wicket when he attacked spinner Mitchell Santner, the dismissal prompting skipper Virat Kohli to have an animated chat with coach Ravi Shatsri.
“India needed experience at that stage. If Dhoni was there when Pant was batting, he would not have allowed Pant to play that shot against the breeze. In England, it’s a big factor. He would have told him to go after pacer, when mid-off and mid-on is up, because he is good at that.
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“Dhoni should have batted up. You need that composure and not just his batting. He would not have allowed wickets to fall in cluster. Dhoni was there when Jadeja batted. Communication is strength. You can’t have Dhoni at number seven,” Ganguly told official broadcaster Star Sports.
“As a finisher, he still has tremendous respect. He can still clear the field and that’s why he left it for last. It’s not that he can’t hit sixes but he thinks that’s the way to win ODI matches,” he added.
The iconic Sachin Tendulkar, too, felt it was a mistake to not send Dhoni up the order.
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“The question here can be, in a crunch moment like this, would you not think of promoting Dhoni with experience on his back? Towards the end he kept talking to (Ravindra) Jadeja and he was controlling things.
“May be instead of Hardik, Dhoni should have come up. Batting Dinesh Karthik at number 5 was slightly out of the box,” he said.
Ganguly said the the biggest mistake the Indian selectors made in the last one and a half year was not finding a solid middle order.
“The one criticism (for selectors) is that they fiddled around the middle order.”
“You can’t always depend on Rohit and Virat,” said Laxman.
Looking forward, Ganguly said, “What India need to do is to push Rishabh Pant to number five. Kohli can bat at number four, if KL Rahul is solution at number three when Shikhar Dhawan comes back. India will have to identify the middle order batsmen and persist with them.”
“That’s the only mistake selectors made. You can’t (always) depend on Jadeja (to win matches by leaving it for lower order).