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ICC Cricket World Cup 2019: India great Dhoni should bat four in likely World Cup farewell

By Opta
MS Dhoni

London, May 27: The 2019 World Cup could be the last in the storied career of MS Dhoni, whose time in the international game has been marked by his longevity and remarkable consistency.

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Known as 'Captain Cool' during his time skippering India, Dhoni has compiled a resume that will secure his legacy as one of their greats. He was captain when India topped the Test rankings for the first time in 2009, unforgettably led them to 2011 World Cup glory on home soil and also lifted the T20 World Cup and Champions Trophy in 2007 and 2013 respectively.

He will not be skipper for their World Cup campaign in England. That responsibility has long since been handed over to Virat Kohli. However, a willingness to move Dhoni into a more prominent role in the batting line-up may be key to India's hopes of stopping the home nation, who are favourites to lift the trophy as they aim for an elusive triumph in a major ODI event.

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The number four spot is an area of concern for India, with all-rounder Vijay Shankar currently an unpopular choice in the problem position.

Shankar has yet to score an ODI half-century in nine appearances, his highest score of 46 coming against Australia in Nagpur last month.

With no senior experience of batting on English surfaces, Shankar is undoubtedly a gamble, even if the decks are expected to be flatter than usual. A painful blow to his right forearm when facing left-arm paceman Khaleel Ahmed in the nets last Friday is unlikely to have done much for his confidence.

Shankar sat out the weekend warm-up game against New Zealand, where Kohli's men were walloped by six wickets with 12.5 overs to spare. KL Rahul batted at four in his absence and was bowled by Trent Boult for six.

Dhoni, vastly experienced in numerous positions throughout the line-up, would surely provide a safer option.

Largely deployed further down the order over recent years, Dhoni has often been tasked with getting India over the line or rescuing a situation, and he frequently excels at doing so.

Indeed, Dhoni has 890 runs in 33 ODI innings at an average of 44.50 when batting at seven, but compare those numbers to his figures when he comes in second-wicket down - 1,358 runs at an average of 56.58 - and the case for him providing support to the top order grows stronger.

This is a World Cup filled with fearsome fast bowling attacks. England, Australia, South Africa and Pakistan all boast bowlers capable of producing searing pace, while in Tim Southee and Trent Boult New Zealand have a pair of seamers expertly adept at generating movement on English surfaces.

Combatting those attacks will be vital for India in a competition that has reverted back to a format last used in 1992. Only four teams progress from a 10-team group, in which all teams will face off once.

Dhoni could be vital to them doing so. He is extremely well versed in how to defy the world's best fast bowling units and, as the moniker he had during his time as captain suggests, has consistently showcased the composure to deliver in the biggest moments.

That calm in high-pressure situations may be of greater use at four, to provide better protection towards the top of a batting line-up set to be filled with World Cup debutants and more questions than answers in the middle and lower order.

Few players have given more to cricket in his country than Dhoni and he is deserving of a triumphant World Cup send-off. The best way for that come to pass is by putting more responsibility on the shoulders of one of India's most dedicated servants.

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Match 33 - June 26 2019, 03:00 PM
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Story first published: Monday, May 27, 2019, 12:40 [IST]
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