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Did MS Dhoni's slow half-century cost India the Sydney ODI vs Australia?

India Today logo India Today 12-01-2019 Akshay Ramesh
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(Video by ESPN Cricinfo)

MS Dhoni managed to win the hearts of some of his hardcore fans by bringing up his first ODI half century since December 2017. The former India captain had a memorable outing, personally at the Sydney Cricket Ground as he became the fifth batsman from the country to score 10,000 ODI runs during the first ODI between India and Australia on Saturday.

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However, the pace at which he got the 51, it is safe to say, was one of the primary reasons, India weren't able to cross the finish line at the SCG.

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Yes, India were jolted early in the chase of 289 as young Jhye Richardson removed Virat Kohli (3) and Ambati Rayudu (0) after Jason Behrendorff handed Shikhar Dhawan his first golden duck in ODIs but one cannot deny the fact Dhoni was struggling to put bat to ball and consumed a lot of deliveries towards the start of his innings.

Dhoni didn't have any match practice since November 1, 2018, as he was not part of the T20I series against the West Indies at home and the T20I series against Australia at the beginning of the ongoing tour. Dhoni had also opted to skip Ranji Trophy duties despite some of the senior cricketers, including Sunil Gavaskar questioning senior players' absence from the premier domestic tournament.

Complete coverage: India tour of Australia

The rustiness was visible as the wicketkeeper-batsman found it difficult to pick gaps in the vast SCG field, let alone finding the boundaries.

Virat Kohli, speaking at the post-match presentation ceremony, conceded that that 300-plus was par on the SCG wicket and pointed out that India bowlers had done their job to limit Australia to 288 for 5.

Dhoni had joined Rohit Sharma when India were reeling at 4 for 3 inside the first four overs. The 37-year-old had the license to start slow but taking 96 balls to score 51 wasn't going to help the team as the asking rate was always going to be a problem on what was a slow SCG wicket.

Related: Handscomb, Richardson turn Australia's fortunes for 1-0 lead

Yes, the SCG wicket was slowing up but Dhoni's inability to rotate the strike not just piled up the pressure on Rohit Sharma but also made life difficult for the likes of Dinesh Karthik and Ravindra Jadeja, who had very little time to get used to the conditions.

Dhoni has been a shadow of his former self, especially in the 50-over format for quite some time now.

More than the lack of big scores, the rate at which Dhoni has been scoring in ODIs has been a huge cause of concern for India. Dhoni's strike-rate from 20 matches in 2018 was a paltry 71.42, as opposed to his career strike-rate of 87.60.

In fact, Dhoni was even booed by a few Indian fans at the Lord's during India's tour of England in 2018. The crowd was frustrated with Dhoni's slow approach to a steep chase of 323 in the second ODI against the then hosts.

India were already behind the asking rate when Dhoni walked in to bat at the fall of Virat Kohli's wicket. His approach thereafter was baffling: Dhoni scored 37 off 59 balls and hit only two boundaries.

Dhoni had also scored the second slowest half-century in Indian cricket history when he scored 58 off 108 balls in India's 11-run defeat against the West Indies during the Asian giants' tour of the Caribbean in 2017.

Photos: Top 20 world records held by MS Dhoni

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