The ex-skipper of India, Sourav Ganguly, has encouraged MS Dhoni, the present captain, to bat at top order as their main batsmen are struggling at the moment.
India has lost two back to back One Day Internationals against the visiting Pakistani team who has surprised the hosts in both matches. The Men in Blue were unable to negotiate with the lethal bowling attack of the Green Shirts and especially three speedsters, Mohammad Irfan, Junaid Khan and Umar Gul were unplayable.
Pakistan won the first ODI against the hosts by a huge margin of six wickets on December 30, 2013, at MA Chidambaram Stadium, Chepauk, Chennai. Misbah-Ul-Haq won the toss and invited the home side to bat first keeping in view his strong bowling. The fast bowling duo of Mohammad Irfan and Junaid Khan delivered an excellent spell in the opening over. Junaid Khan humiliated the top order batsmen and grabbed four wickets as Mohammad Irfan claimed one wicket as the Blue Shirts were reeling at 5-29 in 9.4 overs. Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh and Rohit Sharma surrendered for 8, 4, 0, 2 and 4 runs respectively as four of them were clean bowled.
MS Dhoni and Suresh Raina joined together under trying conditions when it looked like they will not reach the 100 runs mark. The pair enhanced the score to 102 when Raina was gone for 43 as Ravichandran Ashwin replaced him. Dhoni played a masterly knock of unbeaten 113 off 125 balls with 3 huge sixes and 7 fours, Ashwin supported him well by staying at the wicket with 31 as India managed 227 runs. Junaid Khan ended up with four wickets as Mohammad Irfan and Mohammad Hafeez shared one wicket each.
The Pakistani innings was well led by their young gun, Nasir Jamshed, who powered 101 runs without being dismissed. The experienced campaigner, Younis Khan scored 58 as the visitors achieved the target by hammering 228 runs for the loss of four mere wickets in 48.1 overs.
The second ODI was played on January 3, 2013 and was witnessed by a capacity crowd of nearly 80,000 at the famous Eden Gardens, Kolkata. Dhoni offered the batting to the Green Shirts who responded with an excellent opening partnership of 141 runs in 23.5 overs between Nasir Jamshed and Mohammad Hafeez. The latter lost his wicket for 76 as the tourists looked like amassing 300 runs but the collapse in their middle and lower order batting resulted in 250 runs. Nasir Jamshed dispatched his third consecutive century in the ODIs by smashing 106 runs off 124 balls with 2 grand sixes and 12 fours.
The Indian openers started off reasonably well by gathering 42 runs in 9.5 overs when the first wicket of Gautam Gambhir was lost. The Pakistani bowlers once again came back to the game with their devastating spell and the hosts were in trouble at 4-70 in 18.5 overs. It was left to MS Dhoni again to chase the target which looked difficult as the wickets kept on sliding from the other end. Dhoni once again secured his wicket with 54 as their entire team was bundled out for 165 runs in 48 overs and the Green Shirts beat them by 85 runs.
Sourav Ganguly was a successful captain of India who played 311 ODIs while representing the national squad. He hammered 11363 runs at an average of 41.02, the best of 183 with 22 hundreds and 72 fifties. Ganguly has a vast experience in both formats of the game and is optimistic that MS Dhoni can bring stability to the deteriorating batting of the hosts. He expressed his views by saying,
“Dhoni continued to bat lower down, he was the man in form and in such situations [with the team struggling] it’s important that the man in form or the captain stands up. He played superbly in Chennai and I still don’t understand the reason why he has to bat at 29 for 5 or 70 for 4, rather than going in at 40 for 1. It really baffles me, somebody so gifted under-using his talent.”
India is already 0-2 down in the three match ODI series and Ganguly believes MS Dhoni can lead the depleted batting unit to a winning combination if he bats in the top order. The third and final One Day International will be played on January 6, 2013, at Feroz Shah Kotla, Delhi and the Men in Blue will anticipate a solitary win in the series whereas the Green Shirts will go for the whitewash.