NEW DELHI: Former India skipper Rahul Dravid on Wednesday suggested that Mahendra Singh Dhoni should consistently bat at number six in Tests as it can potentially change the complexion of the side in abroad series.
Dhoni batted at number six in the just-concluded first Test against Australia and went on to score a game-changing knock of 224 in the first innings.
It was after two years that Dhoni played at number six as the last time Indian skipper played at this position was in February 2010 against South Africa in Nagpur.
In his 116 Test innings so far, Dhoni has played at number six or above only 17 times, mostly featuring at number seven.
Dravid said Dhoni's decision to bat a little up the order was right and he should stick with it.
"He has moved up the order a little bit which has given him a chance to play such an innings, batting at number seven is difficult. At six, he will have an established batsman before him and an all-rounder after him," Dravid said.
"From India's point of view, they will want him to replicate this abroad and if he can actually bat at number six abroad, it will make India a different side, it will change the complexion of Indian team, the balance of the team will be different," Dravid said.
"No one is expecting a 200 from him every time he plays abroad but a level of consistency abroad will change the complexion of the Indian side," he added.
India's next foreign assignment is against South Africa and Dravid wants Dhoni to bat at number six there.
"I will want him to be at no 6 and I would like him to make a fist of it at no 6 in abroad as well.... It could allow you to play an all-rounder or someone like (Ravindra) Jadeja at 7 and three fast bowler. Of course Jadeja has to up his own batting. It will give a balance and option to the team. Whether they would have the courage to do it abroad, remains to be seen," said the 40-year-old cricketer.
Asked if the double-century will give Dhoni a little breathing space after facing the flak as a captain for quite sometime, Dravid said, "I don't think a lot of these stuff bothers him. That's why he survived and had a lot of success."
"This innings was important for him from his own point of view. If you keep losing and doing that day in and day out you can become weary of the job. You need some enjoyment, some reinforcement. There is nothing like scoring runs and winning as a captain, you need that reinforcement and this innings will be an reinforcement," he said.
Dravid, who now captains Rajasthan Royals in the IPL, was also impressed with R Ashwin, who scalped 12 wickets in the series-opener against Australia.
"Ashwin had a sort of setback but he has spent a lot of time with his coach. I don't judge the youngsters by their setbacks. He has worked on his game and bowled a lot fuller during the Test, he bowled a lot slower. It is nice to see that he has bounced back from setback and it is a good sign going ahead," he said.
Asked if Dhoni has become more expressive as a captain, looking at the way he showed his emotions during the first Test, Dravid said, "I don't think he has changed too much."
"He is a good captain, of course there are areas which he needs to work on and keep getting better. But the team is changing, so he has to connect with the youngsters on a one-to-one basis a lot more and pass on his experience.''
"When he first become captain, there was this famous quote that Dhoni was India's first grown up captain because he didn't show his emotions on field. People are different and I think he is passionate and he wants to win. But I don't think he is someone who will express himself too much. I don't think his inherent nature will change. I like the fact that he has done some forward thinking, discussions off the field with the bowlers," he added.
Dravid also didn't write off Australia but said Michael Clarke and the selection panel need to pick the right team if they want to bounce back from the defeat.
"They had the opportunity to give India a bit of scare. Peter Siddle and Mitchell Starc didn't bowl particularly well. But they did pose some questions to India. They posted 380 in the first innings on a turning track. But to get a bigger impact they need to get their selection right. If the track keeps turning like it did in Chennai, they have to pick a second spinner," he said.
"(James) Pattinson was excellent. They have pace but they didn't get the bowl to reverse swing enough. (Mitchell) Johnson had a lot of success in India. May be they may think of bringing in Johnson and also have (Xavier) Doherty. They are not far off. But they need to have their star players performing. Once they get start, they need to go on."
Dravid feels the immediate solution for Australia would be to get someone to stop the run flow from one end, something which Monty Panesar did during England's successful tour of India last year.
Dravid said India need to win the four-match series to get their confidence back before flying to South Africa.
"I agree, it will be different conditions when we tour South Africa, New Zealand and England next, but we need to build the confidence first. I know a lot of questions will be asked, if India lose and people will get dropped, which doesn't help. From India's point of view, they need to win first," he said.