No 5 is the best position for M.S. Dhoni, says coach

Keshav Ranjan Banerjee believes with Dinesh Karthik and Ravindra Jadeja slotted behind him, as the No. 6 and No. 7 batsmen, Dhoni has the license to play with more freedom.

M. S. Dhoni pulls a short ball behind square on the onside during the second ODI between India and Australia at Adelaide Oval.   -  AFP

When Mahendra Singh Dhoni turned back the clock with a match-winning fifty in Adelaide on Tuesday, it pushed Keshav Ranjan Banerjee to the time when every ‘Mahi’ game would mean a serious occasion in the household.

Like old times, Dhoni’s first coach Banerjee sat through the unbeaten 55 off 54 on television; the innings that helped India finish the second ODI against Australia with four balls to spare.

Dhoni didn't find a place in India's T20I squads for the three-match series against Windies and Australia last year. The selectors clarified that it was not the end of the road for the legend, who was left out to begin the search for his successor with one eye on the ICC World Twenty20 scheduled to be played in Australia next year.

Banerjee feels the break refreshed Dhoni for the ODI series and that No. 5 is the best position for him in the Indian batting line-up. 

“A break is good for players, and it worked for him. It helps a cricketer sustain his potential, or else, once he is appearing in 15 to 20 matches in a row, the workload takes a toll and it can finish a career.  This rotation policy was needed to conserve Dhoni’s energy in the World Cup year,” he told Sportstar a few minutes after the series-levelling win. 

“This position, No 5, suits him. Not every player can go in and start smashing. He would need to go deep into the game, adjust with the pitch as well as the field set-up. Now he has Dinesh Karthik and Ravindra Jadeja to back him up. When batting at No. 6 or No. 7, he may run out of partners. There is also no guarantee that he will score a 50 in every game,” he added.

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M.S. Dhoni with coach Keshav Ranjan Banerjee and Mrs Banerjee.   -  Special Arrangement

 

The man who transformed Dhoni from a goalkeeper to a wicketkeeper during his school days, feels the innings came at the right time. Fingers were pointed at the 37-year-old’s waning ability to finish matches with the efficacy in the pre-2015 World Cup days.  

“Today was a chanceless innings. Best time to play one. The run/ball balance was 100 per cent. It showed that something is still there in him. There is a lot left to be seen.” 

Lighter bats – smart move

Ahead of the eleventh edition of IPL, Dhoni switched to lighter weight bats that helped him rediscover the bat speed of his heyday. The change in his bat weight saw him accumulate runs at a strike rate of 150.66, the right-hander’s best strike rate in five seasons (the last being 162.89 in 2013). 

Read: Dhoni to use bats with more curve, lighter wood

Banerjee lauded Dhoni’s presence of mind to switch to lighter bats and regain the bat speed which formed the foundation for his big-hitting ability. “When I visited his house, I saw those bats. At the age of 26 of 27, he played with heavy bats because he was young. Now he is growing old and it needs added effort to control a heavy willow. He understood that at the right time,” he said.

Dismissing speculation on Dhoni’s retirement after the quadrennial tournament starting May 30, Banerjee reminded, “He is a guy who you can’t beat with insults or criticism. If he thinks it’s his time to leave, he will call it a day. Nothing will bother him.”

Now every Dhoni innings is a treasure, as long as it lasts.