CHENNAI: They almost got there in Visakhapatnam. They did so in Pune. Finally — Saturday — belonged to West Indies. Virat Kohli did what he does best for India, churning out another century. Jasprit Bumrah showed why the white ball belongs in his hand; an economical four-for despite sitting out the first two ODIs. But, the one problem that refuses to let go of India, their wobbly middle-order, again refused to let go of them at Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium during their third ODI.
He was already at the centre of pretty much everything, after news of his exclusion from this series and Australia T20I leg came out on Friday. But by the time India crashed to a 43-run defeat, MS Dhoni was also smack bang in the centre of India’s middle-order muddle, courtesy what has been a protracted lull for his once-mighty blade.
Those still not convinced by that notion ought to pay attention to the following statistical nugget from CricViz. Dhoni’s 252 runs in 12 innings this year have come at an average of 25.2, and they have been scored at 4.04 runs per over. While this is the lowest his average has dipped to since his debut in 2004, his scoring rate has also ebbed to its lowest.
A few hours before this loss became one, Twitter was abuzz with the stumper pulling off an absolutely stunning catch of Chandrapaul Hemraj. “That’s his response for being left out,” roared Twitterati.
But that silver lining couldn’t change Saturday into a different day for Dhoni. It was after Shai Hope’s and Ashley Nurse’s heroics that his true struggles surfaced, in the second innings.
Ambati Rayudu and Pant — though they too were culprits — had made India’s scoreboard tick to a certain extent before departing. 172/4 in 31.1 overs while chasing 284, and that too with a set Kohli at the other end, is the diametric opposite of the situational quagmires that Dhoni has extricated India from in the past.
But a meek waft at a Jason Holder length ball later, the 37-year-old was back in the pavilion for a 11-ball 7. Though Kohli tried his best to lug them past the finish line, sans a spine, India capitulated. Different day, but same story for Dhoni.
There are still 15 more ODIs to go before that event everybody keeps talking about. Dhoni will be there, irrespective of this loss. But, many fingers will be crossed so that when he does go there, nights like this Saturday won’t repeat themselves.