Where is MS Dhoni most effective, No. 4, No. 5, No. 6 or No. 7? A lot has been spoken about the former Indian skipper’s batting position – both in T20Is and One-Day international cricket – and while Virat Kohli continues to use him as per the situation, Chennai Super Kings are set to give their skipper the license to bat more freely up the order. CSK coach Stephen Fleming confirmed that the ‘Thala’ will bat ‘relatively high’ in IPL 2018, but didn’t confirm exactly at which position.
Since 2016 Champions Trophy, Dhoni has featured only once at No. 4 in 19 innings in 50-overs cricket and has mostly found himself playing the role of a floating finisher at No. 6 and No. 7. In the last few T20s, too, he has mostly walked in at No. 6.
“MS Dhoni will bat relatively high. It’s not necessarily a position with him, but a time that we may choose depending on what conditions we see. But he will definitely play a more prominent role as a batsman. We’ve picked (Kedar) Jadhav, (Ambati) Rayudu, (Ravindra) Jadeja & (Dwayne) Bravo so we can plan the middle phase. Looking at our side, there are a lot of multi-skilled players, and while not diminishing their main skills there is a lot of options that we can use,” Fleming said on Monday.
Reflecting on his squad, Fleming harped on the team’s versatility and said there were a number of multi-skilled players.
“One of the key things of the squad is the versatility.. combinations are important. both Indian and overseas.”
Fleming said they had not decided on the opening combination yet adding there were quite a number of players who could do the job.
“We are not sure yet. It depends on the combination and conditions. We have got a number of options that have been penciled down. Shorey, Faf, Watson, Rayudu, Billings, Vijay…We have got six of them.
“Shorey is a top-order batsman, Sam Billings has played a lot of top order stuff. The combination is not just for opening, for the rest of the side as well,” he added.
The CSK head coach said he expected pacers Mark Wood, South Africa’s Lungi Ngidi to fill the role played by the likes of Ashish Nehra and Albie Morkel in the past.
“(Mark) Wood and Ngidi has got a good pace. We have Indian quality in Thakur. Our strong component is spinners. Wood has a got a nice skiddy trajectory and pace.”
He heaped praise on veteran spinner Harbhajan Singh and said the Punjab cricketer would play a key role this season.
“Excited to have Bhajji here. I have always rated him high. He will play a big part in the season. It will be different than bowling at the Wankhede (stadium). The bounce and top-spin he gets are more suited to the ground here.”
Fleming also pointed out that Harbhajan had played some good knocks against the teams he has been involved in and said he even batted up the order in one of those.
“Yeah, he (Bhajji) has been very annoying. He has played some good knocks against the teams I have been involved in. He has played some good knocks in IPL as well. It will be nice if he can recreate some of the forms. He batted up the order in one of the games as well.”
On the replacement for New Zealander Mitchell Santer, who is out due to injury, Fleming said there was no rush to do so.
“That was almost a luxury position. We looked at versatile players and Santner was one of the form players. We haven’t rushed for the replacement. We need to be a bit smarter about whether we need a replacement. If things go well in the tournament, we might not name a replacement,” he added.
To a question, if CSK would use the yo-yo test for its players, Fleming said no and added there were other things to get right.
“The yo-yo test. No. It is very much into personal fitness. It is not the focus of the side. There is so many other stuff to get right. We have Greg King from South Africa, who is an outstanding trainer. All we ask for is the continuation of the professionalism. We don’t ask to up the ante or drop it down,” he said.
(With PTI inputs)