Friday, July 12, 2013

The Myth About MSD

It feels almost criminal to write what I'm going to write after Mahendra Singh Dhoni has taken India to another tournament victory. So let's get this out there before anything else: Mahendra Singh Dhoni is one of the greatest ODI batsmen of all time, and among the top two finishers in the history of the game.

But what position is he best suited to bat in this Indian lineup?

Dhoni has been batting at 6 for the last couple of years. It made some sense when the side had Tendulkar, Sehwag, Gambhir & Yuvraj. There was also Virat Kohli slotted in among these four & scoring hundreds for fun.

Now, Tendulkar has retired and the other three have been dropped for lack of form, leaving Rohit Sharma to open the innings & Virat Kohli at three. Dinesh Karthik has been unable to score consistently at four while Raina has struggled when he's batted at 5 outside the subcontinent. Coupled with the fact that India are now playing 5 bowlers, Dhoni has had to come in to bat knowing he cannot afford to lose his wicket. That he has managed to take the side home under such pressure only shows how great a batsman he is.

But does he really need to put himself under such pressure? A lot of people have said he enjoys the pressure. That he performs best when the match is tight. They ask what would happen if Dhoni were to come in higher & get out.

Well, his record seems to suggest something completely different. Not only does he have a better average & strike rate when he bats at 4 or 5, he remains unbeaten just as often when he bats there compared to when he bats at 6. Most importantly, India have won a lot more often (63.64 percent) when he's batted at either 4 or 5, compared to when he bats at 6 (49.41 percent). He also averages a lot higher & scores a lot faster when he bats up the order. One could say he's shown a tendency to promote himself when the side has been in good position, but the fact remains he's performed better than his teammates.



Position
Innings
Wins
Win %
Not Outs
Average
Strike Rate
% Not Outs
4
18
15
83.33%
5
70
103.4
27.78%
5
48
27
56.25%
13
54.57
85.53
28.24%
6
85
42
49.41%
24
42.36
81.1
27.08%


Coming to the role of the finisher, Dhoni has similar numbers when batting second. Once again, he has a higher average and strike rate and India have won a lot more often (67.86 percent) when he's come in at either 4 or 5 (67.86 percent) compared to when he's come in at 6 (52.08 percent). Once again, the argument can be made that he promotes himself when the side is in a good position. All I can say is with the pressure on in the World Cup final, he promoted himself ahead of the man who had had a dream tournament and who would later be declared Man of the Series.



Position
Innings
Wins
Win %
Not Outs
Average
Strike Rate
% Not Outs
4
8
7
87.50%
1
61.28
93.46
12.50%
5
20
12
60.00%
8
59.75
77.34
40.00%
6
48
25
52.08%
17
42.45
76.55
35.42%


Earlier I had made a point about the new look batting lineup. Look at the records of Indian batsmen at 4 & 5 since the 2011 World Cup. Kohli has now moved up to number 3, Sharma is opening the innings, Tiwary is injured, although going by the way the selectors have treated him he may not make the side anyway. Raina is the only one who's done reasonably well, and even his record is skewed because of the matches in the subcontinent (8 fifties in 15 innings in Asia, 1 fifty in 19 innings outside).

So that's all I have in support of Dhoni moving up the order. I'm not sure most people would agree. Most importantly, I know the team management don't & that's all that matters.