NZ v IND: M. S. Dhoni is still a ‘fantastic player’, says Jimmy Neesham

M. S. Dhoni’s calm demeanour in the middle-order makes him a prized asset for the Indian team, believes Jimmy Neesham, the New Zealand all-rounder.

M. S. Dhoni has had a good run with the bat of late.   -  AP

The wicket of M. S. Dhoni remains crucial for teams looking to ensure victory over India, according to New Zealand all-rounder Jimmy Neesham.

Questions have been raised in the past over Dhoni’s waning abilities with the bat but he silenced his critics with three back-to-back half-centuries in the ODI series against Australia in January, 2019. In New Zealand, the 37-year-old scored an unbeaten 48 in the only innings he batted, in Mount Maunganui. He missed the third and fourth ODIs due to hamstring injury.

Read | Dhoni declared fit for fifth ODI

Behind the stumps, he remains as sharp as ever.

Ahead of the fifth ODI, Neesham said, “His record speaks for itself. He is a fantastic player. I know there were some noises in the Indian media if he should be in the World Cup squad or not. He has got that calm demeanour in the middle-order. When you are bowling to him, you know you have not got the game won until you get him out.”

Full of swing

The 28-year-old is back after recovering from a hamstring injury. He plays domestic cricket for Wellington, and at the Westpac Stadium here, he expects the ball to swing. “We sort of got conditions [at Hamilton] which suit us a little bit more, there was more swing in the air for Boulty (Trent Boult). Any time, if you can knock over a team like India for 90-odd, you will be happy. But you never know what you are going to get here as pitch conditions go but look, we know the conditions are going to vary in different parts of the country and the world. We want to be a team which can perform in all conditions,” he said.

Back from injury, Jimmy Neesham is hoping to make a mark in the limited-overs matches against India. Photo: Getty Images

 

He added, “I certainly prefer playing at Westpac because at the Basin Reserve (other venue in Wellington) you are just bowling into the wind everyday. At Westpac, it swings a little bit more. It is a pretty fair surface. I haven’t seen the wicket but I am sure it will be full of runs.”

Eager to make a mark

New Zealand has an average total of 207 at this venue over the last three years, indicating batting has not been easy.

Read | Batting collapse in Hamilton an aberration, says Sanjay Bangar

With bat and ball, Neesham has been in good touch. He excelled in the home series against Sri Lanka, before injury ruled him out of the first three games against India. “Sri Lanka was obviously a lesser challenge than India who are one of the best teams in the world; it poses questions in different ways. But any time you are scoring runs, you take that confidence into the next series no matter who it is against. Hopefully, I will get a chance to contribute,” he said.

Neesham feels India remains a formidable force despite the absence of Virat Kohli. “Their top three average 20 runs more than any other pair. They have a lot of quality at the top despite [Kohli] being rested. For us, [Kohli’s absence] is certainly not a case of being complacent. We have to bowl in the right areas like Boulty did the other day,” he said.