A man doesn’t stand defeated until he’s defeated in his own mind.
For the best part of his seven-years of captaincy, Mahendra Singh Dhoni has never gone overboard in celebrating his triumphs, but never has he let defeat weigh him down. Win or lose, he’s always flashed a smile at the end of the day. Sadly, the cookie finally crumbled this Sunday, when India abjectly surrendered to lowly Bangladesh, losing their maiden ODI series against the perceived minnows. The defeat was catastrophic but the real tragedy came later when the Indian captain dropped a bomb saying that he would quit the captaincy if that were to serve Indian cricket better.
Never before has the Indian captain appeared so upset, so vanquished, so defeated in the mind. This emotional outburst has evoked mixed reactions with most experts, though upset with the comments, still backing Dhoni as skipper. However, the call for change in leadership has never been louder. At least, in the media circles.
Over the last few days, various journalists have written about the decline of Dhoni, not just as a skipper, but as a batsman too. In the last 15 ODIs, Dhoni has scored 453 runs at an average of just 37, with a moderate strike rate of 82.
Now most players would take these numbers, but not if you’re Dhoni, a batsman considered as the best finisher in the game. More than the lack of runs, it’s the decline in strike rate that been worrying. Barring, the unbeaten 85 against Zimbabwe, and the gritty 45 against West Indies, Dhoni has had poor run in the last year.
He made the right move to promote himself up the order at no.4, but not for a moment was he his usual fluent self, scoring just 47 off 70 odd balls. He got out at the most inopportune time, and his dismissals led to an all familiar collapse.
Poor Dhoni was heavily criticized for dropping Ajinkya Rahane in favour of a dud Ambati Rayadu (who got a duck) However, he was absolutely right in stating the reasons. As good as Rahane is in the Tests, he’s yet to find his mojo in limited overs cricket. And most of his success in ODIs have come as an opener, while playing on true pitches. Rahane has struggled, as Dhoni rightly put, to rotate the strike while batting at number 4-5 on the slow pitches of the sub- continent. And truth be told, barring a few knocks, Rahane has been inconsistent in ODIs.
My criticism with Dhoni is not over Rahane’s exclusion, but who did they replace him with? Rayadu, a guy who’s made runs against ordinary bowling attacks, but found wanting against good opposition. Bishan Singh Bedi rightly pointed out that selection is IPL-based. Other wise what on earth have the like of Rayadu, Axar Patel, Karn Sharma done to merit a place in India squad? Similarly, how many matches will Dhoni and the selectors give to the struggling Ravindra Jadeja?. Inconsistency has also been plaguing Suresh Raina, who despite spending nearly a decade, doesn’t seem to get it right when it matters the most.
A major chunk of Dhoni’s woes are due to the lack of runs from their number one batsman Virat Kohli. Those who’ve watched Indian cricket over the last 5 years, are well versed with the fact that when Kohli sparkles, India wins, but when he doesn’t, the team collapses.
The less said about the bowling, the better. Save for Ravichandran Ashwin, none of other other bowlers have been consistent. But India has seldom produced great bowlers in recent history. Thus the onus always lies on the batters to bail Dhoni out. Earlier, he had Tendulkar, Sehwag, Gambhir and Yuvraj but with the great man having retired, and the others falling off the radar, Dhoni has had to shoulder most of the burden of India’s middle order. It was too much of a burden to bear, coupled with Kohli’s lack of form, India’s fortunes were bound to nosedive. And it couldn’t get any worse than losing a maiden ODI series to Bangladesh.
Before the team for the Bangladesh tour was announced, Indian chairman of selectors Sandeep Patil was quoted saying, “You don’t need to make changes when your team reached the semi-finals of a World Cup”
I was startled by this attitude, and I guess that Mr.Patil must now be eating his own words. Such a line only exposed the bankruptcy of visionaries in the selection team. Now, if the chairman himself has such an attitude, what can we expect from his team members?
Despite India reaching the World Cup semis, on the back of good performances by only a few, the major issues plaguing India then have remained unsolved. viz.
a. No genuine all-rounder
b. No teeth in the middle order
c. Raina, Jadeja’s inconsistency
d. Inconsistent and unfit bowlers
Now compare the attitude of the Indian selection committee vis-a-vis the English selectors. Fed up by their inconsistency, the new English administration made sweeping changes, ringing in younger and hungrier players. The result of which is England winning an ODI series at home since 2012. The series saw an average score of 300, with England crossing 400, and chasing down 350 in the penultimate game, to level the series at 2-2. The final was a rain-curtailed game, but England needed 192 off 26 overs, and they remarkably achieved the target after being down to 42 for 5.
Now would the England administrators had known about the potential of the new players had they not tried them. Once again we see Indian experts bemoan the fact that India doesn’t have a bench strength. Well, how will you have one, when you don’t even pick them. Dhoni’s often stated that he’d rather see the bench players warming the benches. Unfortunately, when those who take the field start to flounder, it is time to test the bench, time to ring in ring in some fresh blood.
While the nation is perturbed over the decline of Dhoni and the Indian team, one man must be merrily gulping down his premium scotch in a Patiala peg at his residence in Chandigarh.
Not too long ago, after his son Yuvraj Singh was dropped following his poor performance in the T20 World Cup, Yograj Singh had blasted the Indian skipper for axing his son. He went on to say that Dhoni has a grudge against Yuvraj. If that wasn’t enough, then few weeks later, Yograj was back at it again as this time he CURSED DHONI.
“ONE DAY YOU’LL LOSE EVERYTHING. ONE DAY YOU’LL BE LEFT PENNILESS”
Whoa! Having signed a 2 billion rupees contract, I doubt that Mr.Dhoni would ever go penniless, but losing to Bangladesh isn’t short of being penniless. Given an option, Dhoni wouldn’t mind losing all his wealth, than to endure all the criticism that’s coming his way now.
Loss of runs, loss of hair, greying. Phew! Perhaps, it is the curse of Yograj Singh that’s now plaguing Dhoni. May be the skipper needs to find a counter spell to this curse. How about sharing a premium scotch with the disgruntled old man? Sounds cool, aaaahh but sorry Yuvraj, you wont get an invite for this bash.