Saturday, August 13, 2011

Dhoni Moment of Truth in Captaincy Has Arrived

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee
Life does come a full circle. Just four months back, MS Dhoni was the man of the moment having won India its World Cup after 28 years but the superhero of modern times has been facing the wrath of the people after three back-to-back test defeats. It’s been close to four years since MS Dhoni took helm of Indian cricket in the inaugural T-20 World Cup in South Africa and started with a bang by winning the tournament. He had a dream run ever since, taking the team to No.1 Test rankings and winning the World Cup in April this year. You could also add two back-to-back IPL wins in that kitty for the Chennai Super Kings. He led his side with a Midas touch and was being touted as a captain who could do no wrong. Old and young all would admire Dhoni and the former legends went gaga about the boy from Jharkhand.

Three humiliating defeats in Lords, Trent Bridge and Edgebaston and there are questions being raised on his leadership skills if Team India rightly deserved the No. 1 spot in cricket’s purest version. A team may lose matches back-to-back but the manner in which India surrendered like ‘school boys’ as Sunny Gavaskar rightly said does call for some hard questions. Hasn’t the No. 1 spot been debated ever since Team India achieved it? And why not, they haven’t yet won a series in Australia or South Africa and are currently making a mockery of themselves in England. The rankings improved due to regular home series wins and drawn overseas tours. Unlike the West Indies in the 80s or the Aussies of the past decade, they haven’t demolished the opponents in their own den. They haven’t instilled fear in the eyes of the opposition and wrapped up test matches in four days. They crawled to a 1-0 win over a depleted Windies side which won’t fare well even in a Duleep Trophy match.

Too much has been made about Dhoni and the No. 1 spot with people failing to acknowledge the contribution of Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble who acted as the lynchpin at different intervals to scale this height. Sourav started the process about a decade back, Rahul stabilized it and Anil Kumble gave it the final push. When has Dhoni proved himself as a Test batsman, wicketkeeper or captain? To be honest Dhoni inherited a balanced team and his only test before this series came in South Africa where he managed a draw after losing the first test. The New Zealand series win cannot be rated too high as the Kiwis are themselves finding it hard to get the combination right. So the England tour was the moment of truth in Dhoni’s captaincy and it lies in tatters at the moment.

Dhoni has personally missed a milestone of turning into a legend from being just a good captain. They say a player or a team hasn’t achieved anything in the game, unless they have impressed the English crowd. Many might term this as arrogance but the English have always been arrogant about their cricket. And why not, no one can deny they are the home of cricket and have preserved it in the purest form. Nowhere in the world do you get such knowledgeable crowds as you do at Lords or Edgbaston. Suited man in the twilight of their lives applauding good cricket, that’s what a test match in England is all about. Some of the spectators rightly deserve the right to criticize you as they have seen the best of the Gavaskars, the Richards, the Borders, the Chapels, the Warnes and the Khans over decades.  And Dhoni has failed to impress them with his wicket keeping which has been sloppy, batting which looks frazzled and lack luster captaincy.

As a cricketer Dhoni didn’t burst into the scene with talent written all over him unlike a Yuvraj Singh or a Zaheer Khan. He was an ordinary keeper who could hit the ball hard. But his rise as a cricketer has been phenomenal and in mere eight seasons from his debut has been nothing short of a Bollywood script. His fame only rivals that of Sachin Tendulkar’s in the team though he is nowhere near the master in terms of his talent or record. To start with he was never an orthodox wicket keeper. He seldom had his fingers pointing towards the ground which coaching manuals will tell you to do. His batting flourished with time but once he took over the captaincy he created a shell around himself which has done more harm to the team than good. He lost his flamboyancy and started becoming a run accumulator. He doesn’t alarm the opposition with his batting anymore which has been a downside to Indian cricket in the recent years.

Having said all that, Dhoni still remains Team India’s best bet at captaincy and he certainly isn’t outdone completely. He still can knight himself in England by bouncing back in the series. Perhaps he has to lose a bit of his calmness and be more involved in the game. He has to become more proactive as a captain and work on his field placements. He needs to talk to his bowlers often which he seldom does on the field. Bowlers like Ishant Sharma, Praveen Kumar and Sreeshant need some support and encouragement when things are not going their way. They aren’t in the same league as a Zaheer Khan who has enough experience to know what to do. This team has it all that is required to defeat the English. It only needs to apply its skills to the potential and Dhoni needs to lead them from the front and not push from the back especially when the team has its back to the wall.


Annoyz World October 21, 2011 at 4:30 PM  

Well only defense in favor of such a poor performance in England could be the lack of frontline players. But Australia in their heydays used make sure that their players are always in the best shape by cutting short their schedules. So if Indian cricket has to prosper some tours have to be avoided.

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