MS Dhoni: Is time catching up with India's former captain?

Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni talk together
India have reached the semi-finals of this year's World Cup with a game to spare
ICC Men's Cricket World Cup: Sri Lanka v India
Venue: Headingley Date: 6 July Start: 10:30 BST
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It is almost inconceivable to think about an India one-day side without MS Dhoni orchestrating things from behind the stumps or at the business end of a run chase.

This is, after all, a man who made his debut in 2004, three years before the iPhone came out.

But is time finally catching up with India's modern-day great?

The physical signs have been there for a while: gone are the long flowing locks; and in their place is a short, back and greying sides style of cut.

And now, India fans fear, indicators are creeping into his cricket.

Known as the best finisher of a one-day innings in the world, Dhoni has been criticised for the slow nature of his batting in this World Cup.

That intensified when he failed to lead his team to the grandstand finish which became his signature in a group-stage defeat by England.

"With any great player, it has to come to an end at some time," said former England assistant coach Paul Farbrace. "World Cups can often be the tipping points for some players.

"I wouldn't be surprised after this World Cup if he decided he's played enough international cricket."

So is it time for 37-year-old Dhoni, a veteran of 348 one-day internationals, to step down? And how will his loss impact the number one-ranked ODI team in the world?

'He is the central processing unit of the Indian cricket team'

MS Dhoni in action earlier in his career
MS Dhoni has only recorded one ODI century since 2014; he registered nine in the 10 calendar years beforehand

Dhoni is revered in India having led the team to a World Cup title on home soil in 2011.

That was arguably his peak: he could go through the gears in the manner of the very best sports car. He was thrilling, exhilarating and premium.

When India needed a hero in the final of the 2011 World Cup, it wasn't Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli or Virender Sehwag who stepped up and saw them to their target - it was Dhoni with a classy, composed 91 off 79 balls.

Such knocks don't feel as frequent now, despite the stats showing Dhoni is averaging 61.11 in 2019.

Where he falls down is his strike-rate (runs per hundred balls) of 83.71, down from 103.11 in 2005.

"In recent times, the immediate reaction to Dhoni is that he uses up a lot of dot balls and is not able to score as quickly as he used to," said India commentator Prakash Wakankar.

"I saw a stat that until the 2015 World Cup he was scoring at 106 runs per 100 balls faced in the last 20 overs. He's now scoring at 93 so there is a drop.

"That being said, in this World Cup, you can't rely on India's last four batsmen to do anything with the bat.

"Therefore when India are batting, he has to marshal the resources, look at the total and balance it out. He is probably the finest reader of a cricket game."

MS Dhoni's one-day international record
MatchesRunsAverageHighest scoreHundredsFiftiesCatchesStumpings

Dhoni captained India for almost a decade, from 2007 until 2017. Under his leadership, they won the World Twenty20, World Cup and Champions Trophy.

And it is this leadership, perhaps more than his batting, which many feel India - and current captain Kohli - will miss the most.

"He is the central processing unit of the Indian cricket team," added Wakankar. "Almost everything in the field revolves around him; the angles the fielders field, what line the bowler should bowl.

"Virat Kohli is extremely comfortable and wants Dhoni to play that role in the side so those who think Dhoni is overstaying his welcome are not understanding of the dynamics which exist in this team.

"He is hugely respected. He holds phenomenal personal power - in a positive, influencing sense.

"India will only realise his full value when he hangs up his gloves."

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