Chennai Super Kings coach Stephen Fleming has admitted MS Dhoni is short of batting practice after his team lost to Rajasthan Royals by 16 runs at Sharjah.
Dhoni decided to keep himself lower down the order as he came out to bat at number seven with Chennai requiring a gargantuan task of 103 runs from 38 balls.
He eventually reached 29 not out off 17 balls including three successive sixes in the final over of the innings bowled by Tom Curran. However, Dhoni was later criticised for a visible lack of intent during the first half of his short stay at the crease since he took time to show any semblance of aggression in his strokeplay.
When queried about his demotion in the batting order amidst a steep chase, Dhoni replied: "I haven't batted for a long time. 14-day quarantine doesn't help."
Fleming also echoed the senior pro's sentiments and remarked being away from competitive cricket for over a year deprived Dhoni of the requisite fluency to go big.
"We have this question every year. He was in in the 14th over, which is pretty much optimal time, and sort of batted accordingly. He is coming back from not playing a huge amount of cricket," the New Zealander said at the post-match press conference.
"So, the expectations to see him at his best is gonna take some time. But you see him towards the end, he was very good. Faf du Plessis carried the form, so we weren't too far away. It wasn't the batting that was the worry to be honest."
Fleming added that given Sam Curran's heroics in the season opener, the CSK management wanted to give the youngster more time to express himself against Rajasthan but the plan ultimately backfired.
"MS is a specialist towards the end of the innings, always has been. Curran was there trying to hit and keep us in the game at that point when we were falling behind. He's got good hitting power as we saw."
"Ruturaj [Gaikwad]...it was his first game and we wanted to get him into the game into the order. We wanted to be aggressive, we've got a long batting order and we're just trying to use our resources smartly."
Prior to Chennai's run-chase, Dhoni's men were flattened by a six-hitting exhibition spearheaded by Sanju Samson. The CSK bowlers failed to restrict Samson's rollicking charge with the spinners unable to find the right lengths against the 25-year-old.
"Their hitting was very good in the 8 overs they faced. It was a good surface (to bat) and we were slow on adjusting. We did not adjust quickly. There was intent to adjust but the execution was poor," Fleming lamented.
"So it was a dangerous time and we had to just hang in there and try. We came close to pulling back to a manageable score but that last overtook us out of reach."