With Dhoni, on the evidence on the 2018 Indian Premier League, ‘a long time’ might be the right answer. There have been a couple of low scores, but he has hit three half-centuries and has ended the Chennai Super Kings innings unbeaten on six occasions.
Those have gone towards him scoring 360 runs in 10 matches – putting him at No.3 on the run-scorers’ table – at an average of 90, and a strike rate of 165.89. And most of those runs have come in winning causes; Chennai are second on the eight-team table with 14 points.
“It's the best I've seen him play for quite a few years,” said Mike Hussey, the Chennai batting coach, at the end of Dhoni’s latest round of heroics, and another Chennai victory, against Virat Kohli’s Royal Challengers Bangalore on Saturday.
Chasing a modest 128, Dhoni came in at 78/3 and hit a four and three sixes to score 31* in 23 balls to take his team to victory. That took Dhoni’s season tally to 19 fours and 27 sixes.
In an earlier fixture between the two sides, Dhoni had smashed 70* in 34 balls to take Chennai to a five-wicket win over Bangalore. Then, the chase was of a huge 206 runs.
Though on the losing side on the night, Kohli sported a big smile when asked about Dhoni’s batting.
“Lovely to see. Everyone likes seeing MS strike the ball the way he does. It’s only a great sign for Indian cricket. The bigger picture is that, and we’re all very happy with that,” said Kohli, who leads Dhoni in limited-overs internationals. “We’d have liked to win, but he played well so deservingly they won the game.”
Hussey, who was a player with Chennai earlier, stressed on Dhoni’s importance to the team.
“He is such an important player for the team. He's the captain for one, he's a fantastic keeper, he's been in unbelievable form with the bat,” said the former Australian international.
“He's (important) away from the game as well. We saw the packed house tonight, so many Dhoni fans out there. He's the key man in our whole organisation both on and off the field. What I like about him, apart from watching him play in the middle, is the character of the man off the field. He's very calm and relaxed.”
The signs are good for Indian cricket for sure, especially with the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 and ICC World T20 2020 not too far away.
First Published: May 7, 2018, 11:35 AM IST