Tough to find someone for finisher's role – Dhoni

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‘I can bat up the order in this team’ – Dhoni

Ahead of India’s home ODIs against New Zealand, captain MS Dhoni has said it is difficult to find players to slot into a finisher’s role. The nature of cricket in the subcontinent, he said, meant lower-order batsmen had few opportunities to get used to the pressure of finishing games.

“You talked about [the examples of Jos] Buttler and [Glenn] Maxwell. You have to see consistent performances,” he said. “It [finishing] is one of the most difficult things to do in cricket. It’s not about six months or one year. You have to be used to that role and responsibility, and you have to have that self confidence to keep on doing what is required of you, usually over a period. Once you find a good finisher, they are the ones that will keep batting at that slot for 8-10 years.

“I think one of the biggest challenge is that the cricket that we play in the subcontinent, more often than not, a finisher is someone who bats at 5, 6 7, to some extent, maybe No. 4. A lot of times in India, the lower order doesn’t get a chance to bat.

Dhoni himself had made his reputation as a finisher but, with his striking power having dimmed over the last few years, he has indicated a preference for batting higher up the order; his reasoning is he can hold the innings together before hitting out in the end, while the batsman coming in at numbers 7 or 8 could go for the big hits from the start. He said the team management had identified a few players for the finisher’s spot, but refused to divulge their names so as to not put pressure on them.

“It becomes more and more difficult for a youngster to come in and fill in that place. The reason being he may not get an opportunity, but you start counting opportunities – say if we are four or five down for 40 runs, it’ll be counted as a big opportunity by you. In 15-20 games, [the youngster] gets an opportunity like that and you expect the youngster to do well, score a 100-150; you say” ‘That was a perfect opportunity in front of you.'”

Dhoni is averse to using the word “experimentation”, but with India having only eight ODIs to play before the 2017 Champions Trophy in England, he admitted to there being pressure to identify the best combination of players in a short span of time. When it was pointed out India had played 31 different players in ODIs since the World Cup 2015, Dhoni said that was a necessary exercise to look at new talent as well as rest key players.

“Quite a few of them would have gone to Zimbabwe. All of a sudden, 14 or 15 were there and then a few injuries here and there… It’s not a realistic number but at the same time, there are a few individuals who we are very keen to see what they have on offer.

“With the Indian team, it’s difficult to give chances, let’s be fair about it, because we have to win games while also looking at the process. So we try our best to do what is in favour of the result and the team at the same time. Now there’s slightly more pressure because we only have eight games. This is a season when we’ll play a lot of Test matches. It’s a different challenge, but we’re open [to experimenting] and we’ll use games in the best possible manner.”

Arun Venugopal is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo. @scarletrun

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