Wicketkeeper MS Dhoni has done it all on the cricket field, captaining India to all three major ICC titles and taking the team to the No1 spot in Tests. Now playing purely as a wicketkeeper batsman, the 36-year-old has two other major milestones in his sights as India play the fifth ODI of their series against South Africa on Tuesday.
Not only will Dhoni look to help India win the match in Port Elizabeth that will give them a first ODI series win in South Africa, he will also aim to get the 46 runs he needs to become just the 12th man in ODI history to score 10,000 runs.
As and when Dhoni scores the required runs, the wicketkeeper will be the only batsman in the 10,000-run club with an average of more than 50. He currently averages 51.5 from 316 matches. The next best on the list is Sachin Tendulkar who scored 18,426 runs from 463 matches at 44.8.
The Jharkhand player has another record within reach. Dhoni is five away from 300 catches in ODI cricket. With seamers and spinners among the wickets during the ongoing series, there is a good chance of Dhoni reaching the milestone on Tuesday.
The 31-year-old, who was a vital component of the side’s 2011 ICC World Cup winning side, ultimately lost his place after a string of poor performances against South Africa at home in 2015.
Ironically, he was sorely missed in India’s defeat at the hands of the Proteas in the fourth ODI at Johannesburg on Saturday. After Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli had set up the visitors nicely for a final assault in the death overs, India’s middle-order batsmen failed to drive home the advantage.
That proved costly as the hosts kept the series alive with a thrilling five-wicket win. The likes of Ajinkya Rahane, Shreyas Iyer and MS Dhoni failed to provide the acceleration needed in the closing stages as India went from 200-2 in 34 overs to eventually finish on 289-7.
As the middle-order struggled to lift the scoring rate despite being given the perfect platform, one could not help but wonder how valuable a quick-fire 30 or 40 from Raina would have been in that instance. The southpaw’s role in the erstwhile Indian side had been that of a finisher, the batsman who profits in the death overs after the top order has laid a solid foundation.
It was this ability of Raina, and Yuvraj Singh as well, to score quick runs towards the end that was a valuable asset to the ODI side. The fact that the pair could also bowl some part-time spin was an added bonus.
India’s template in 50-over cricket over the past few years has depended on the top-order sticking around until the 40th over mark before launching a final assault.
With Dhoni’s powers fading, the middle-order conundrum facing Kohli at the moment can all be attributed to a failure to replace Raina and Yuvraj adequately.
They may have potentially secured the latter’s replacement in Hardik Pandya but there still remains a Raina-shaped void.
India’s batting prodigy Shubman Gill extended his Under-19 World Cup winning form to the domestic circuit as he smashed an unbeaten century to guide his state side Punjab to a four-run victory against Karnataka.
Playing in the 50-over domestic Vijay Hazare Trophy, Gill hit 123 off 122 balls to help Punjab post 269-3 from their quota of overs. He added 125 runs for the second wicket with Mandeep Singh (64) after Punjab lost their first wicket without a run on board.
After Mandeep got out, the 18-year-old teamed up with veteran Yuvraj Singh (36) to add 79 runs for the third wicket and help Punjab post a formidable target in Bengaluru.
In the chase, Karnataka were powered by a fine century by India international KL Rahul but the hosts fell short by four runs.
It has been a fine few months for Gill who was named player of the Under-19 World Cup in New Zealand where he scored 372 runs from five innings with one century and three fifties. Therefore, it came as no surprise when he was ‘bought’ for rupees 18 million ($280,000) by the Kolkata Knight Riders during the IPL player auction last month.
His poise at the crease and technical precision have made Gill one of the players to watch out for with many expecting him to make it to the national team sooner rather than later.