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India’s quest for new limited-overs ‘finisher’ begins with failure in 4th ODI versus New Zealand

For once, let us forget about the outcome of the fourth ODI between India and New Zealand. Those on the Indian side of the warring parties, who are still following this somewhat inconsequential five-match 50-overs cricket series with some inexplicable enthusiasm, might still find their hearts heavy, following the loss which the Indian cricket team suffered on Wednesday night at Ranchi. At the hometown of the Indian captain, it was not MS Dhoni who had the last laugh; in fact, there was nothing from the game which could make him smile. Coming off a brilliant innings in the third match, Dhoni was not only expected to stretch his form, he was expected to end the drought of an ODI century. But a huge chasm between his bat and pad resulted in Dhoni’s leg stump being felled, trigerring the Indian batting collapse. It is not about being harsh on the cricketers who are new to the roles they just have been handed out by the team and their captain. It is about the fans, the experts, the media and all those who remain perennially impatient about how this Indian ODI side — which remained without their top stars across departments — shapes up in the time to come. Dhoni moving up to No. 4 is both, a boon and a bane for India. But how soon Indian team recovers from the blow of losing one of the best limited-overs finishers from the role is something that only time will tell. Till the time India do not find quality finishers and Dhoni settles in well at the most coveted spot in the batting line-up, India might find themselves in uncharted waters with no experienced sailor to rescue them. In all probability, Dhoni will continue to bat at No. 4. To make himself deeply rooted into the role, the Indian captain — who faced long-lasting criticism for not playing any amount of domestic cricket since he became an international cricketer — will play for his state Jharkhand in the upcoming Vijay Hazare Trophy 2016-17. And there will be no criticism of India’s most venerable cricketer at the moment for remaining away from the grass root level. Yes, blame the BCCI and the ICC and whoever concerned for the packed international cricket calendars. Nevertheless, transgression would be a crime. Dhoni’s move to go up in the batting order has vacated the essential spot of a finisher in the Indian ODI side, and now, in the four matches that are left in the Indian calendar, for the build-up of the ICC Champions Trophy 2017, there will be a lot of experiments done which may or may not click. This is exactly what happened on Wednesday night against New Zealand at Ranchi, when as many as three batsmen failed in order to provide India the late impetus.

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