After dragging the second run chase to the final over in the same week, MS Dhoni elucidated why he had to take the third ODI deep on an MCG wicket that turned out to be rather slow.
With India opting to rest their recent regular No.4 batsman Ambati Rayudu, Dhoni walked at two drop in the 17th over after Shikhar Dhawan had departed for a 46-ball 23 – another indication that the wicket wasn’t as straightforward to bat on as they would’ve liked.
He and Virat Kohli joined forces like they did in Adelaide, but could only add 54 runs off 82 deliveries. Kohli’s departure in the 30th over meant Australia’s hopes of a series victory were rekindled. But Kedar Jadhav – playing his first game of the series – came together with Dhoni for an undefeated, match-winning partnership.
“It was a slow wicket, so it was difficult to hit whenever you wanted to. It was important to take it deep,” Dhoni said in the post-match presentation after being awarded the player of the series.
Dhoni, who ended the game with a 114-ball 87, also pointed out that the conditions were such that he didn’t see a reason to try and take on the bowlers who were bowling well, thereby minimising his risks. He shied away from going after leggie Adam Zampa (12 off 32 balls) and Jhye Richardson (5 off 17 balls), who has been one of Australia’s best performers in the series. He targetted Marcus Stoinis (34 off 36), Peter Siddle (21 off 18) and Billy Stanlake (15 off 11) to make up for the 61 dot balls he played out on the day.
“No point going after the bowlers who are doing well, so that was the gameplan. Of course, supported brilliantly by Kedar, who plays unorthodox shots,” he said.
India’s decision to experiment in the final match of the series is perhaps borne out of the need to still figure out who fits the bill in which position for the impending World Cup. The three changes gave Dhoni a chance to ply his trade a couple of spots up at No.4. India have had trouble filling that spot recently but Dhoni maintained it’d be down to the team balance that would dictate his batting position, and that he was ready to bat wherever the team needs him to in the middle-order.
“Whether I play at 4 or 6, we need to see if the team balance can be retained. Important thing is for me to bat where the team needs, I’m happy to bat lower down at 6,” he added.
The Melbourne victory brought down the curtains on an immensely successful tour of Australia, but they swiftly move to New Zealand for a limited-overs series that will further help them assess their options ahead of the showpiece event, scheduled to begin in June.