By Madhav Sharma

The ICC World Cup 2019 is just around the corner and, in all likeliness, it will be MS Dhoni’s last World Cup and who knows his last appearance in Indian colours, too. Dhoni, as we all know, will always be remembered as one of the greatest finishers in ODI history. But, these days, he is under the scanner for his low strike rate and fewer big hits.

He is making runs and keeping a decent average but the impact of his runs is missing, and his low strike rate in the recent past has often triggered debates regarding his place and position in the playing 11.

Also read: India need ‘great captain’ Dhoni to guide Kohli at World Cup, says Yuvraj

The ongoing series against Australia is the last ODI assignment for Team India before the Word Cup, but the scheduling of the Indian Premier League (IPL) just before the World Cup will give opportunity to players around the world, who will feature in IPL 2019, to stay in good touch ahead of the all important World Cup in England and Wales.

Dhoni will captain Chennai Super Kings (CSK) but this year not just CSK fans but every Indian cricket fan will keep a very close eye on CSK matches as Dhoni’s form will be a crucial factor in India’s World Cup campaign. Despite his average strike rate and low-impact in ODI cricket, Indian cricket fans are hopeful that he will turn things around and help India win matches in the World Cup with his cool head, experience, wicketkeeping skills and most importantly, big hitting.

It is true that Dhoni is struggling to make an impact as a finisher but It would be unfair to question his technique or temperament because he has always had his own way of scoring runs and the former Indian captain has never cared about being ‘copybook’ or technically correct.

IPL is ideal platform for Dhoni to throw unnecessary burden off his shoulders

In IPL 2018, Dhoni scored 455 runs in 16 matches at an average of 75.83 and his strike rate was in excess of 150. He was smiling, talking in the middle and smashing sixes. He also floated up and down in the batting order as per the demand of the situation and turned the clock back with his good old ‘Mahi Maar Raha Hai’ sixes.

In IPL 2019, he needs to do exactly the same, i.e., push himself up the batting whenever he can, enjoy himself in the middle and hit the ball as straight and as hard as he can.

There are chances that he might mistime a few and lose his shape, but Dhoni still needs to bat with utmost freedom in IPL 2019. He needs to free his arms more often and also dance down the wicket against spinners to pick those ‘trademark Dhoni’ ones and twos.

These days, if you have noticed, commentators don’t use words like ‘Mr Cool’ for Dhoni because he looks under a lot of pressure every time he comes out to bat.

It is very important that Dhoni starts feeling good about his batting before the start of the World Cup and enter the tournament with some runs and more importantly, boundaries and sixes under his belt. And for this, there can’t be a better platform than CSK’s batting order in IPL 2019.

There was a time when Dhoni used to eat spinners for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but he struggles against them now, and there is no particular reason behind this. His eyesight is perfect because he doesn’t make mistakes behind the stumps. He is still very fit and can give young players a run for their money in 100-metre sprints. So what is it?

It’s just pressure and nothing else.

Jadhav and Pandya’s presence allows Dhoni to be more aggressive

If we look at India’s lower-middle order, the likes of Kedar Jadhav, Dinesh Karthik and Hardik Pandya are all good hitters in ODIs and they are now experienced enough to bat according to the situation. The cushion of having three good batters batting below should allow Dhoni to bat freely, and the team management must convey this message to him. He needs to drop his conservative approach and look to manipulate the field like he used to right from the start of his innings, even if this involves taking some risk. When Dhoni bats with that sense of freedom, he makes batting look easy and bowlers look ordinary, and this is exactly what Indian cricket fans want from him in World Cup.

Dhoni has, more often than not, proved his critics wrong with his bat and this will be the ideal opportunity for him to do it again, and probably for the last time in his international career.

(The views expressed in this article are the author's own and doesn't necessarily reflect that of MyNation)