Monday, July 1, 2013

Demystifying Dhoni

I saw a a disccussion on NDTV recently where exerts were debating Dhoni's success and whether Dhoni is the best captain India has ever had. I am big admirer of Dhoni and in my opinion he truly is an extraordinarily intelligent cricketer. In this blog I discuss some of his tactics and the reasons as to why he does so. 

The job of a captain is two fold. Outside the field he has to ensure a good team dynamics, healthy dressing room atmosphere, enthuse confidence in his players while also ensuring that a healthy churning process goes on so that new and fresh talents keep replacing the old slackened ones. On the field he has to take strategic decisions such as about bowling changes, batting order, field positions, pace at which the entire innings should be built or a target chased. While I feel that Ganguly was very good at the first job (Dhoni is too), as a strategist I have never seen a better player than Dhoni.

His most important tactic is delaying the 'end' whether it be a chasing a target or setting up one.  Its something unique about him and I have never seen it before. To have the guts to take almost every chase to the last over takes something. So why does he do so?

One might think that leaving the chase to the very end is a risky strategy. But in my opinion it is done prominently to avoid risk. Dhoni comes to bat generally after it 3 or 4 down which means there are not many specialist batsmen left after him. There are two parts of getting runs, knocking around singles and doubles and second is hitting the risky boundaries. Slogging is easy and even tail-enders can do it. The difficult part is rotating the strike for a long time and it is the job of the specialist batmen to hang around and do so. If the specialist batsmen coming at 6-7 get out early, its match over. Think about it this way. A team needs 100 runs to chase in 15 overs with five wickets in hand. One way too do it is to keep the run rate high from the very beginning so that in the end you have 30-40 odd runs to chase in last 5 overs. Other strategy is to take less risk, keep wickets in hand have around 50 runs to chase in last 5. In the first strategy, if one looses wickets, it becomes more difficult. In the second one, even if the set batsmen get out in the last 5 overs, the tailenders can continue slogging as only a few runs are left to score and win the match. I have seen India loose so many matches using the first strategy in the pre-Dhoni era.

The second benefit is that taking the match to the end puts the opposition bowler under pressure and makes him commit errors. Its so easy to solve a problem while you are practising it but solving the same in an exam becomes much more difficult because of pressure. When a bowler in bowling in death overs (say 5 overs left with 50 to get), he feels the pressure as well because the decisive moments are near. A yorker going wrong becomes much more probable because he knows that if he does not get it right the set batsmen in front of him will take him for runs. This tension forces the mistake and makes getting those 50 runs even easier.  

Another unique thing about him is that he does not talk much to his bowlers if they commit a mistake, no frowns, no showing frustration, no words. Every bowler knows that he should not give width or bowl down the leg side, and so does Dhoni. It is a no brainer. So if a bowler gives width, its because he is not able to put the ball in the right position and not because he does not know where to put it. A captain talking to the bowler and asking him to try and put the ball in the right place will not help. Rather it will only put more pressure on the bowler. Its simply better not to talk to him and let him try and rectify his mistake on his own. Its only when one needs to make a strategic change in bowling tactics that a captain needs to communicate with the bowler. 

His calmness gives a sense of reassurance to his own players and a scare to his oppositions. And in spite of his bizarre looking tactics, most often than not he gets it just right.

1 comment:

Animall said...

Nice post after a long time. While many of us might have noticed what you mentioned in this post, such observations generally come in bits and pieces.

To see the guy whom you used to see every other day, sitting outside MECON stadium, on his bike, on TV, is just a little surreal to say the least :)