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Testing times: Dhoni fails to leave imprint

Testing times: Dhoni fails to leave imprint

Dhoni's reputation as a frontline batsman lies in tatters.

Adelaide: Before the tour to Australia got underway, he was built up as the final pillar in the strong Indian middle order. Seven innings later Mahendra Singh Dhoni's reputation as a frontline batsman lies in tatters.

"It's not about the people's expectations, it's about the players' expectations. You know what you need to do and what the expectations are. It's the people who play the game, ultimately you are the one who faces Brett Lee or Shaun Tait or Mitchell Johnson and knows what the conditions are and what the team needs from you," this was Dhoni on the eve of the fourth and final Test, determined to turn the tables around for himself.

MS Dhoni is a crowd puller. Even in Australia, he is often besieged by admiring fans at practice sessions. But while the persona is alive, is the reputation still intact?

Not if you consider these numbers. Seven hits Down Under have got him a mere 121 runs at just over 17 runs per innings without a a single half-century.

And those numbers reveal another startling fact. For a man who has built a career on destroying bowling attacks, Dhoni's strike-rate is a less than 37. Clearly; Australia have planned well against him.

"He's a class player. And I know the Australians think that as well. There are three or four guys that they like to target in India's side as batsmen, and I'm sure Dhoni's one of them," says Greg Blewett, the former Australian batsman.

Now as the Test series winds down, Dhoni faces a stern test in coloured clothes. He will lead a young team against the world's top two one-day teams. And despite his failures the man he modelled himself on is backing him to come good.

"He is still learning Test cricket. He is relatively inexperienced if you look at the big picture and the number of games that people have played over their careers. So, he's going along nicely. I think he is a valuable asset for the Indian team," says Australian vice-captain Adam Gilchrist.

Australia is among the few countries on the cricketing planet where MS Dhoni has failed to leave an imprint. The challenge in the One-Day series for him is clear: to leave the Test nightmare behind and lead by example.

first published:January 25, 2008, 20:34 IST