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Dhoni and the No. 5 slot

29 Oct

MS DhoniThere’s been some debate over MS Dhoni’s batting position in ODIs, but he’s done so well at No. 5 that it’s unlikely he’ll relinquish it any time soon

No. 3, No. 4, No. 5, or No. 6? Plenty of opinions have been pouring forth on which batting position is the best one for India’s captain, MS Dhoni. Many former players have suggested the one-drop position, since he has been India’s best batsman this year and the No. 3 slot will allow him the chance to play the maximum number of overs. Dhoni has steadfastly stuck to his belief that Gautam Gambhir and Yuvraj Singh are best suited to come in immediately after the openers, and has chosen to push himself up the order only if either or both of those players aren’t available.

There’s no easy answer to the question about the best batting position for Dhoni, but the stats for Gambhir and Yuvraj suggest that they too deserve the chance to play long innings. What clinches the argument in favour of Dhoni at five, though, is his own performances in that slot.

It’s true that Dhoni has been outstanding at Nos. 3 and 4 – he first announced himself on the world stage at No. 3, scoring 148 against Pakistan in Visakhapatnam, while his highest ODI score of 183 not out came at the same slot as well. However, in the last couple of years he has modified his game perfectly to suit the requirements of the lower positions: at No. 5, he averages more than 50 at a strike rate touching 88, and he hasn’t done badly at six either.

Dhoni at different batting positions in ODIs Position     Matches     Runs     Average     Strike rate     100s/ 50s
No.3     15     921     83.72     97.66     2/ 5
No.4     12     708     88.50     109.76     1/ 8
No.5     27     1065     50.71     87.65     1/ 5
No.6     47     1395     38.75     81.19     0/ 9
No.7     24     589     39.26     95.61     1/ 4

Batting higher up the order is often the easier task in ODIs, which is why Dhoni’s numbers at Nos. 5 and 6 are even more praiseworthy. As the table below shows, he is the only player, among those who’ve scored more than 1000 runs at No. 5, to average more than 50 at that slot. His strike rate is excellent too, 87.65, which gives him a batting index (average multiplied by runs per ball) of 44.45. Andrew Flintoff follows closely, but apart from Flintoff and Andrew Symonds, none of the others have an index in the 40s. And for those who suggest Dhoni hasn’t scored enough hundreds at five, you only need to point at Inzamam-ul-Haq’s stats – he played 105 innings at that slot, but managed no century despite having gone past fifty 27 times. Shivnarine Chanderpaul hasn’t scored a century at that position either, though he has 15 fifties to his name. Batting lower down the order obviously limits the possibilities of getting to three figures, but Dhoni’s average and strike rates indicate he has been exceptional at that position.

Best batsmen at No. 5 in ODIs (Qual: 1000 runs) Batsman     Innings     Runs     Average     Strike rate     100s/ 50s     Ave x SR
MS Dhoni     27     1065     50.71     87.65     1/ 5     44.45
Andrew Flintoff     48     1749     46.02     94.33     3/ 11     43.41
Andrew Symonds     96     3473     44.52     91.87     5/ 23     40.90
Yuvraj Singh     81     2878     42.32     88.06     7/ 16     37.27
Paul Collingwood     73     2535     44.47     81.01     4/ 16     36.03
Jonty Rhodes     90     2734     40.80     82.59     2/ 19     33.70
Hansie Cronje     43     1451     40.30     83.15     0/ 11     33.51
Rahul Dravid     69     2459     43.91     73.60     2/ 22     32.32
Inzamam-ul-Haq     105     3473     41.84     76.21     0/ 27     31.89
Shivnarine Chanderpaul     61     1996     43.39     73.06     0/ 15     31.70

What’s equally important is the manner in which Dhoni scores his runs. In his early years he was known to biff the ball around, but in his later avatar he has transformed into a far more multi-dimensional cricketer who is comfortable nudging the ball around into gaps and taking most of his runs in singles and twos, which is perfect for a batsman at five.

In 2009, Dhoni has batted at No. 5 in 10 out of 18 innings, and his overall stats for the year indicate he has done very well indeed. The most striking feature of his batting this year has been his exceptionally low boundary percentage – he has hit only 55 fours and 13 sixes this year, which converts into less than 34% of his total runs. It’s easily the lowest among all Indian top-order batsmen this year.

In the match against Australia in Nagpur, Dhoni found the ideal partner in Gambhir. They added 119 in 114 balls, but only 24 of those runs came in boundaries, with each batsman hitting three fours. Meanwhile, they allowed only 35 out of the 114 deliveries to go scoreless, and nudged the ball around for 62 singles. Not surprisingly, Dhoni and Gambhir have the lowest boundary percentages among Indian batsmen this year.

On the other hand, the numbers for Virender Sehwag make very interesting reading. Despite opening the batting, his dot-ball percentage for the year is a ridiculously low 39.62 – with the field up close during the first few overs, you’d expect that number to be much higher. Combine that with his high boundary percentage, and it’s clear how he has been scoring at nearly eight-and-a-half runs per over this year.

Dot-ball and boundary percentages for Indian batsmen in ODIs in 2009 Batsman     Runs     Average     Runs per over     4s/ 6s     Dot-ball %     % runs in 4s/ 6s
MS Dhoni     892     81.09     5.33     55/ 13     43.17     33.41
Gautam Gambhir     639     53.25     5.61     58/ 5     45.53     41.00
Sachin Tendulkar     499     45.36     5.60     50/ 8     51.12     49.70
Suresh Raina     436     39.63     6.31     31/ 18     46.38     53.21
Yuvraj Singh     655     46.78     6.20     75/ 19     52.61     63.21
Virender Sehwag     521     52.10     8.42     72/ 12     39.62     69.10

Comparing Dhoni’s numbers with all batsmen who’ve scored at least 500 runs this year, his stats are still excellent: only three batsmen have a lower dot-ball percentage, while his boundary percentage is the lowest.

Lowest dot-ball percentage for batsmen in ODIs in 2009 (Qual: 500 runs) Batsman     Runs     Average     Runs per over     4s/ 6s     Dot-ball %     % runs in 4s/ 6s
Virender Sehwag     521     52.10     8.42     72/ 12     39.62     69.10
Shakib Al Hasan     621     56.45     6.49     56/ 13     39.72     48.63
AB de Villiers     561     62.33     5.35     43/ 5     43.15     36.01
MS Dhoni     892     81.09     5.33     55/ 13     43.17     33.41
Michael Hussey     979     42.56     5.45     75/ 12     43.36     38.00
Gautam Gambhir     639     53.25     5.61     58/ 5     45.53     41.00
Callum Ferguson     599     46.07     5.10     58/ 0     46.59     38.73
Mahela Jayawardene     592     26.90     5.00     47/ 7     48.10     38.85
James Hopes     501     27.83     5.23     46/ 4     48.26     41.52
Grant Elliott     507     42.25     4.63     32/ 3     50.00     28.80

The Man-of-the-Match award in Nagpur was Dhoni’s 12th in ODIs, but his first for a batting display at the No. 5 slot. Former players may have their opinions, but looking at the manner in which Dhoni has taken to the task of batting at five, it’s unlikely he’ll relinquish it and move up the order anytime soon.

Source: http://www.cricinfo.com/

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Posted by on October 29, 2009 in Business

 

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