Originally Posted by Howe_zat
But we know Dhoni usually bats at 6 (give or take)* so in general, the earlier he comes into bat, the worse the top order have done. The worse the top order have done, the more likely it's a difficult day to bat, either because of how well the opposition or bowling or because of conditions, or both. So it's only to be expected that it'll be harder for him to score, and his team are likely to lose.
*Turns out since 2010 it's 35 innings at no.6, 15 at no.5, and a handful at 4 or 7.
The point is not of difficulty but of the number of not outs which give exaggerated batting averages to the good batsman who bats later in the odi format. Even a rabbit will have some not outs at number 11 but none at the top of the order. The better batsman will always have more. That is why the not counting of not outs has always been a bit of a dicey proposition but nothing better has not been proposed which is also simple at the same time. So while one cant do anything about the way the averages are calculated today with respect to not outs, one should at least keep in mind the effect they have on averages and not assume that a batsman who averages in the 50's at number 6 or 7 is automatically a better batsman than one who averages ten points or so lower at the top.
By the way, if the argument for lower averages for coming in to bat in the first 25 overs is going to be just that the top order did no do well therefore the conditions were tough, then it can also be said that the higher averages when coming in to bat in the second half are because the top order has softened up the attack.
If a batsman's average of 50 plus is going to make us call him the best or even one of the best ever in the format, we should not use the excuse of failure of the top order as in this case.
Let me clarify, nevertheless, that I am not writing this because I have anything but the highest regard for Dhoni's achievements in the shorter format of the game and his assessment of and controlling of a run chase to a nicety. I just want to add to what has been said by Neil and others about putting stats in perspective.
PS : By the way, he does not come into bat in the first 25 overs just once in a while. For the period I have taken (1-1-2010 till date) his coming in before and after the 25th over is exactly the same in number of innings - 30 each !! So if half his innings are when he comes in before the 25th over and half after, we cant just ignore one half.