MS Dhoni is one of the greats of the game.
A great Indian captain, a fantastic limited overs batsman and a great wicketkeeper, Dhoni has been one of the pillars of Indian batting since his debut 14 years ago and has been one of the best finishers the game has ever seen.
Scoring over 10,000 ODI runs at an impressive average of 50, his batting form in recent times has gone south very quickly.
While batting at number six, he struggles to up the ante and has not been able to control chases like he used to.
This decline shows in his stats for the year. Averaging only 28.12 with a strike rate of 67.36, the genial batsmen has himself admitted his waning prowess when he said he lost the ability to rotate the strike.
The problem now for India, with just a few months to go until the World Cup, is the pressure being put on their top five.
Without Dhoni to hold the middle order that stretch looks vunerable for the near future.
A mixed ODI series against England and the recent Asia cup show how India struggle when the top three get dismissed.
Since the beginning of 2018 Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli have scored the majority of India’s ODI runs while the rest have mostly struggled. Ambati Rayudu has done okay after his comeback, but his sample size is small.
Although having a decent average, a strike rate of only 73.56 hurts Dinesh Karthik and strong middle order batsman Shreyas Iyer finds himself out of favour for no apparent reason.
Even though they have been one of the top ODI sides in recent times, the fickle middle order means things are not as rosy as they seem.
Both Kohli and team management support the idea of having Dhoni in the team as someone who can control the middle when things go south, but in terms of balance his presence is hurting the side.
Rishabh Pant needs to get a look in as Dhoni’s replacement. If this means Dhoni is rested for the West Indies series then so be it.
India need to have a plan for the World Cup and beyond. For me, Dhoni does not feature in that plan.
The Indian selectors need to have that difficult conversation with the legendary batter and discuss his future with the team.
Players have come and gone like muscial chairs for too long while this Indian middle order conundrum continues.
To lift the trophy in England next year, something needs to change.