Should Dhoni bat during Power Play : In a game in which an innings is played in twenty overs, it is absolutely essential to have great starts that would reduce pressure on the middle order batsmen, who can then go about their job in consolidating the innings in the normal way.
If a team is not able to get good starts, the pressure percolates down the middle order and the lower middle order, when the batsmen struggle to find their feet and put up a decent score, while setting a target or falter big time, chasing one.
In the ongoing World T20 tournament, Team India, who have, with great difficulty, made it to the semi final, struggled with their opening partnership. They almost lost to Bangladesh, but for a ‘differently thinking’ captain and a tinge of luck, helped them cross the line.
It is absolutely necessary to score big during the first six overs (Power Play) when the field restriction is in vogue. The batsmen would be required to find the ‘ropes’ and the ‘stands’, more often than not.
In the four games that Team India have played in the round robin league stage, in the ‘power play’ they have scored 33 runs (5.50 RPO) against New Zealand, 23 runs (4.60 RPO) against Pakistan, 42 runs (7.0 RPO) against Bangladesh and 37 runs (6.12 RPO) against Australia.
This type of scoring put immense pressure on the middle order, and trying to accelerate, they went on losing wickets also.
The ‘low scoring power play’ and the ‘loss of wickets trying to accelerate’ put immense pressure on Virat Kohli and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, both of whom had to take the entire responsibility on their shoulders to help the team win.
If, however, the team is able to ‘up the ante’ during the power play and score at about 10 RPO (60 runs in 6 overs), then the middle order can play normal cricket and consolidate further.
Even if the middle order and lower middle order score at about 8 RPO, the team would be able to set a target of around 172 runs for the opposition, while batting first or chase an identical target, without much difficulty, batting second.
The current opening pair of Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan, are clearly unable to go anywhere near this objective. They have not yet ‘found their feet’ in the tournament. The nation is still awaiting a meaningful innings from both of them.
This could lead the team management to make some changes in the batting order. Currently the two batsmen who are successful in taking the bowlers, head on, are Virat Kohli and the skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
While Kohli is doing an excellent job at No 3, consolidating and finishing games for India, it may not be wrong on the part of the team management to have Dhoni play during the first six overs.
Dhoni could take the aerial route, more often than not, and not let the bowlers and the fielders to settle. This would ease a lot on pressure on Kohli, who then, alongwith Raina, Yuvraj, Jadeja, Pandya et al can carry forward the good work of Dhoni and help the team win.
Dhoni needs to look at this alternative and, if necessary put into action.