Rediscovering himself in the twilight of his career, a rejuvenated Mahendra Singh Dhoni would look to continue his regained form and guide India to a series-clinching win when the team takes on New Zealand in the fourth cricket ODI, here on Wednesday.
A batsman, wicketkeeper, and a cool-headed skipper, all rolled into one, Dhoni promoted himself to No.4 in the last ODI in Mohali and set up the seven-wicket win in the company of Virat Kohli to give the hosts a 2-1 lead in the five-match series.
Dhoni’s 91-ball 80 in Mohali also took him to the club of 9,000 runs. He became the first to reach there with an average of 50 or more.
The limited-overs captain and Ranchi’s favourite son may be seen in his last appearance at the Jharkhand State Cricket Association Stadium Complex here which has hosted three ODIs and one T20I, with India winning all of them except for a rain-marred one-dayer.
Dhoni’s deputy, Kohli, will also look forward to return to the venue where he has scores of 77 not out and 139 not out in his two unconquered ODI innings here.
Regarded among the best batsmen of modern era, Kohli once again showed how dangerous he can be after being dropped early in his innings in Mohali. He came on his own after the reprieve on six and scripted a flawless 154 not out off 134 balls to take India past New Zealand’s 285 in the third ODI.
“To some extent I am losing my ability to freely rotate in the middle. If it keeps on happening for a long time, tendency is you don’t fluently rotate strike and that was what was happening with my batting,” he had said.
Back home where it all began for Dhoni, it will be an emotional match for the Indian skipper, who has won every ICC trophy and he would look to make the outing a memorable one.
Dhoni’s return to form would be a dangerous signal for the Kiwis, who are desperate to prove a point after their 0-3 whitewash in the Test series.
Despite opting to rest their three premier bowlers in the Tests -- Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohammad Shami and Ravindra Jadeja keeping in view the gruelling home season ahead -- India have done reasonably well in the bowling department.
The biggest surprise has been part-time off-spinner Kedar Jadhav, who has taken six wickets at less than eight runs an over, and is joint second in the wicket-takers’ list behind leg-spinner Amit Mishra. An explosive batsman, Jadhav, who scored a 37-ball 41 in New Delhi, can give Dhoni a good option ahead of the next year’s Champions Trophy by becoming the utility player that the skipper is looking for.
Then there is Hardik Pandya, who has impressed with both bat and bowl in his debut ODI series.
Making his debut in Dharamshala, Pandya bowled with pace and accuracy en route a match-winning 3/31 while in New Delhi he nearly pulled off an tough chase before being Dismissed for 36 from 32 balls.
But going into Wednesday’s game, India’s biggest concern would be the opening duo of Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane, who are yet to give the team an explosive start. In the last three ODIs their partnership has yielded 49, 21 and 13 runs respectively.
The Indian team management would be looking towards Rohit and Rahane to forge a partnership upfront to release extra pressure on the middle-order.
Rahane himself would be eager to make a big score and cement his place in the opening slot in the absence of Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul.