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IPL 2024: CSK will derive better value with MS Dhoni at number 6

IPL 2024: What is the ideal position for MS Dhoni to bat? Should CSK promote MS Dhoni to number 6? MS Dhoni scored 37 off 16 balls at number 8 against Delhi Capitals.

IPL 2024, DC vs CSK_ Ms Dhoni scored 31 off 16 balls against Delhi Capitals _ Walking Wicket (Images_ ©IPL_X)
MS Dhoni scored 31 off 16 balls against Delhi Capitals (Images: ©IPL/X)

Amidst the loud cheer and craze from the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) fans, it was hard to fathom that they faced defeat for the first time in the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2024 by 20 runs. After two successive victories at home, they fell short by 20 runs in the 192-run chase against Delhi Capitals (DC). Did it matter when they all got the rarest opportunity to see their ‘Thala’ Dhoni bat? 

For those last four overs, the result of the encounter was irrelevant. Irrespective of the team they were supporting, everyone present at the ACA-VDCA stadium was chanting just one name. The loud cheer was blowing off the roof with every boundary from MS Dhoni

With long hair and big muscles, Dhoni turned the clock back

The last time the former CSK captain lifted his bat in a competitive game, was the IPL 2023 final. His strong punch shot through extra cover found the fielder inside the ring to dismiss him on a golden duck.  

When Dhoni strolled into the middle with a huge applause against DC, the defending champions needed 72 runs in 23 balls. They were required to pull off a heist, and their master of such situations was in the middle. But he is 42 years old now, almost at the fag end of his career. 

Dhoni started with a boundary, whacking Mukesh Kumar’s short-of-length delivery to the long leg region. He sliced the next ball through backward point. But in the thick of the wild atmosphere, Khaleel Ahmed dropped the straightforward chance. 

Mukesh went full in the last ball of the over. Dhoni clobbered it through extra cover for another boundary. Till the end, it was clear that if the ball would be on slot against Dhoni, the fielder had to go and pick the ball from outside the rope. 

For the first four balls of the 18th over, Khaleel denied both Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja to free their arms. However, the fifth ball was slower, and Dhoni didn’t need any second invitation. He reached out and lofted it beautifully over extra cover to turn the clock back to 2005 when he smacked Pakistan in all corners of the same ground. 

With Jadeja struggling at the other end, the evergreen ‘No. 7’ decided to take charge of the last Anrich Nortje over. He smashed the first ball through extra cover for a boundary, before generating his power to nail a one-handed six over deep mid-wicket. 

MS Dhoni carved the last ball over extra cover for another six to finish on unbeaten 37 runs in 16 balls, shouldering on four boundaries and three sixes. Old habits die hard. 

IPL 2022, CSK vs KKR_ MS Dhoni raises his bat after scoring 38-ball fifty against KKR (Image ©BCCI_IPL)
MS Dhoni looked solid during his 37-run innings (Images: ©BCCI/IPL)
CSK should promote Dhoni to number 6 

Before Dhoni’s arrival, the bowlers were perfectly executing their plans for the wide yorkers. Once he came, suddenly the bowlers started to miss their lengths. Looking at the way he smashed all the bowlers out of the park, the question stands as to whether he should be promoted to number six. 

From the last year, the five-time champions gave him the role of striking from the go. With the wealth of his experience, Dhoni knows almost every planning bowlers may have, and that makes him lethal in the death overs. 

“What happens with any player of that calibre, is it puts the shivers down any attack. They then question their capabilities, instead of just isolating what their role is and forgetting who is at the other end,”  former Sunrisers Hyderabad coach Tom Moody said to ESPNcricinfo. 

Since the start of the IPL 2020, the former CSK captain has smashed 527 runs in 43 innings from the 16th to the 20th over of their batting. This has come at a strike rate of 161.20 with 44 boundaries and 31 sixes. When it comes to chases, the strike rate jumps up to 163.1 where he has whacked 23 fours and 16 over boundaries. 

“It gave us a positive vibe towards the end of a tough day. The way he played was spectacular,” CSK coach Stephen Fleming stated at the post-match press conference. 

There are reports that this could be the last IPL season for MS Dhoni. So, he decided to hand over the captaincy and also provided the other batters a platform to come high and explore their skills. 

Batting at number eight doesn’t provide him enough balls to maximize the destruction. If he comes at number six, he will have more deliveries to smash, and also in his presence, scoring becomes an easy job. Also, if that were a crucial knockout game at the backend of the league stage for CSK, Dhoni would have been the first one to promote himself in the batting order. His capability to read game situations makes him special. 

It was a glimpse of a vintage Dhoni knock at number eight. With the superb batting line-up CSK carries, it won’t be regular that he will be needed to bat. If this becomes the lone inning of the season, the fans will cherish it for a long time. 

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