Asia Cup | Takeaways: A Shahzad conundrum to fitness devotee and MS Dhoni’s spin struggle

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Asia Cup | Takeaways: A Shahzad conundrum to fitness devotee and MS Dhoni’s spin struggle

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Bastab K Parida

09/26/2018

After Ravindra Jadeja took the see-saw game to the last over, it ended in a thrilling tie after Rashid Khan dismissed the all-rounder on the penultimate delivery of the innings. However, it was Mohammed Shahzad's day to shine as he showcased why clean-hitting can be a replacement for fitness.

Who needs fitness?

“The Australian grounds were big. You are not fit enough to play the game required in Australia.” - Mohammed Shahzad was told when the team of 30 probables were about to depart for a training camp in Dubai ahead of their Afghanistan's first World Cup. However, if anything, he has come to destroy the appalling pre-conceptions and established himself as the original Afghan superstar - hell-raising and fun-loving. So, what if he can’t run between the wickets for long like a Virat Kohli or an MS Dhoni, he can make up for it by hitting a long ball clean

His batting is based on this simple philosophy. And Dubai today witnessed this super spectacle. He was unperturbed by the Indian pacers and took them to the cleaners, making the powerplay his personal playtime. When the ball was on the channel and on the stumps, he used slog sweep to dispatch them over the fence and once the ball is on the fourth and fifth stump line, he didn’t miss the chance of sending them over cover. He attacked 60% of the balls he faced in this innings with a boundary percentage of 19%, which is much more than his career average of 45% and 12% respectively for those two metrics. It was an exhibition of clean hitting and one that shows why he believes in the fact that hitting can compensate the running between the wickets. An IPL contact for him? Oh, yeah, maybe!

A lesson in despair for Deepak Chahar

Deepak Chahar is primarily a swing bowler who mostly relies on getting his length right and is then able to swing it as late as possible. It was a trait that he has developed at the flatbeds of Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur while playing for Rajasthan in the Ranji Trophy and that was well on show when he represented Chennai Super Kings in the IPL this year. However, his bowling today was different. Probably nerves kicked in and he was easily swatted away by Mohammed Shahzad.

It was a placid wicket - one that is loyal to the bowlers who will not deviate from the plan of bowling continuous slower balls. However, Chahar thought otherwise and consequently, failed to get the benefit of the wicket. He bowled a beamer in his second over and once that was called a No-ball, he followed that up with two slower bouncers - both of which were called wides. Once he managed to bowl a legal delivery on his fourth attempt in that over, Shahzad cleared his front leg and send the full ball over mid-wicket for six. 

The moment needed some introspection from the man as Dhoni turned to Jadeja for a breakthrough and he struck in his third over to have Javed Ahmadi stumped. And with Kedar Jadhav chipping in after that with some miserly overs, Dhoni didn’t have to turn to Chahar too much and despite he getting better of Gulbadin Naib in the 29th over, he ended up bowling only four overs. Could he have bowled more? Maybe. But he needs to understand this lesson and pick up the horses for courses policy while bowling in unfavourable conditions.

MS Dhoni against spin - Finished!

MS Dhoni solely on the basis of his batting credentials doesn’t deserve to be a part of the team and there is no pussy-footing around the fact. Yes, he can still play those odd innings to turn the clock back, but more often than not he fails to provide any sort of contribution with the bat. The frightening aspect of his batting is the way he struggles against them throughout.

The major drawback is that the opposition is now calculative in their approach and when the 37-year-old comes to the crease, they just apply incessant spin from both the ends. Today, Dhoni came in at No. 4, a position much being eulogised as the ideal position for him to bat, but the fact of the matter is, he is no more valid in the position. Spinners were operating from both the ends and India needed to keep the scoreboard ticking. However, since the World Cup, no Indian batsman, to have batted 5 innings or more, has a higher dot ball percentage at this stage of the innings than him, and only Jadeja scores at a slower rate. So, when he came out to bat, Afghanistan did exactly what the matchups wanted them to do and allowed their two spinners to operate. 

He failed to get that upright stance correct that helped him score runs efficiently in the last IPL - mostly because he was able to score over long-off and extra cover while also going aerial over backward point. Today, he had the cushion of rotating the strike before going for big ones. But, Dhoni seemed like he forgot how to counter them and the worrisome fact is it is not the first time that we have seen something like this. 

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