Toss, First ODI: Should MS Dhoni Opt to Bat or Bowl if He Wins the Toss?

The toss is likely to be a crucial factor in the Dharamsala ODI and MS Dhoni has to decide between batting or bowling first if he wins the toss in Sunday’s first ODI against New Zealand at the HPCA Stadium, where India have won one of the three limited-overs matches (two ODIs and one T20I) they have played. 

Team India’s squad for the five-ODI series against Kane Williamson’s New Zealand, is drastically different from the one which whitewashed the Blackcaps in the three-Test series and reinforced their position at the summit of the ICC Test rankings. You can expect the five-ODI series, which begins this Sunday in Dharamsala, to be evenly contested, with New Zealand’s ODI side being a lot more versatile than their Test side was and India’s ODI squad exuding a fresh look.


Cricfooty‘s in-depth Preview of Tomorrow’s First India v New Zealand 2016 ODI

Shikhar Dhawan (fractured left thumb) and Bhuvneshwar Kumar (back strain) have not been named in India’s 15-man squad for the first three ODIs against the ICC World Cup 2015 Finalists. Further, Ravichandran Ashwin, the man-of-the-Test-series against New Zealand and who bagged his 39-Test career’s seventh man-of-the-series award for his series figures of 27-480, and Ravindra Jadeja have probably been rested after bowling a combined 290.3 overs—146.3 by R Ashwin and 144 overs by R Jadeja—during the three-Test series against New Zealand.

As a result of the R Ashwin-R Jadeja duo’s absence, in addition to the reborn Bhuvneshwar’s too, India seem a little weak in the bowling department.

Jasprit Bumrah will be the spearhead of the attack, looking to provide wickets with the new ball and stem the run flow at the death. I expect Dhawal Kulkarni to be his bowling partner for the Dharamsala ODI, which should also feature Axar Patel and Amit Mishra as the two spinning options. Hardik Pandya, who is making a comeback into the Indian ODI side, will provide balance to India’s playing XI as an all-rounder.

Suresh Raina is down with viral fever and has been ruled out of the Dharamsala ODI. His absence is likely to provide an opportunity in the middle order for Kedar Jadhav, who is a good striker of the cricket ball and scores his runs quickly, justified by his ODI strike-rate of 106.56.

Moving on,

The toss is usually crucial in the context of day-night ODIs and that theory holds true for Sunday’s Dharamsala ODI as well.

In this article, let us analyse why the Dharamsala ODI toss is of epic proportions and consequently understand whether MS Dhoni should opt to bat or bowl first if he wins the toss.

Read on…

Dharamsala ODI Toss

The foremost consideration Dhoni has to make before he walks out for the toss this Sunday afternoon is whether he should include two spinners in India’s playing XI. In my opinion, he should, as the New Zealand batsmen have perennially struggled against spinners and India’s strength is their spinners, even in R Ashwin and R Jadeja’s absences.

And, when you include two spinners, you have to create an ideal scenario for them to thrive. Dew is a common aspect of day-night ODIs, that both the captains have to contend with because the spinners become ineffective once the dew kicks in. From Dhoni’s perspective, he will want his spinners to deliver wickets during the middle phase (overs 11-40). Because you can only have four fielders outside the 30-yard circle during these 30 overs (60% of an ODI innings), picking wickets at regular intervals is indispensable for the fielding side to remain in or boss the game.

In a T20I between India and South Africa 12 months ago at the HPCA Stadium, the dew kicked in in the latter part of the evening when the Proteas were chasing a target of 200 and turned the game on its head. But India and Dhoni, having been asked to bat after losing the toss, could do nothing about the dew and only strive to bat well and put up a big total on the board.

As far as this Sunday’s ODI between India and New Zealand is concerned, Dhoni, who is almost certain to include two spinners in India’s playing XI, should have no hesitation in bowling first if he wins the toss. In dry conditions, spinners can focus on what’s happening between them and the batsman at the other end and devise plans to dismiss the batsman. When they have to contend with the dew factor, spinners’ primary worry is ‘keeping the ball dry’ and they cannot concentrate on what the batsman is trying to do or the kind of deliveries they can bowl.

Chasing targets has become India’s forte too, over the last decade and more. The Sourav Ganguly-led Indian side—by beating the Nasser Hussain-led England in the 2002 NatWest Triangular Series final at the Lord’s, where they had to chase down 325 for victory—set the tone for India going on to become very good chasers in ODI cricket.

India had chased down a couple of 300+ targets before the landmark win at the Lord’s in 2002 too. But the manner of this victory, led by the 121-run sixth partnership between Yuvraj Singh and Mohammad Kaif, was absolutely sensational and looking back, we can say that it has been a watershed in Indian cricket’s history!

New Zealand, with the return of Tim Southee, boast a very good bowling attack, against which chasing a target in excess of 300 will be a challenging one for India. Under lights at the Dharamsala, bowlers tend to enjoy exaggerated swing and seam movement and so, batting, even if the dew kicks in, will not entirely be a gimme. But with the likes of Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and one of the great finishers in the history of ODI cricket, Dhoni, in their ranks, India should fancy chasing down any target that the Blackcaps set them to win the Dharamsala ODI on Sunday.

Closing Thoughts

Winning the toss will be an advantage throughout this five-ODI series, with all five ODIs being day-night affairs. And, because India and New Zealand boast great stroke-makers in their first-choice playing XIs, they will feel quite comfortable with chasing targets. Consequently and needless to say, the team which bowls better will likely win the ODI series.

A question for you, the reader!: putting yourself in Dhoni’s shoes, what will you do if you win the toss at 1 PM tomorrow IST? Tell us in the comments section below. 


    1. He has generally been a bat-second captain and with the possibility of dew, there is no reason why he would want to bowl second and make life difficult for his spinners, who he will rely heavily on for wickets.

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