Wednesday, 25 June 2014

The Dhoni Dilemma

“MS. Dhoni is surely the best captain India has ever had”.

“Leave alone captaincy, in my opinion MS Dhoni does not even qualify in my playing eleven”.

You are in for an utter shock, when you realize that both these statements were said by the same individual and that too within the span of just over 6 months. The individual behind making these hard hitting statements was none other than Sourav Ganguly, the ex captain of the Indian team. What prompted him to change his stance so dramatically, just like in a typical overcooked Bollywood film? The answer to the above question is profusely uncomplicated. India’s performance in overseas test matches was the sole and prime reason. Moreover, it was the humiliation through the hands of England and Australia, which made the Prince of Calcutta say those harsh words towards the Indian skipper.

Indian fans are familiar with that grim look.

The twin disasters endured by team India in the two nations and eventual whitewashes had left millions of Indian cricket fans in a literal ‘revolt’ against the Indian skipper. From Facebook to Twitter, everyone wanted to savagely rip apart Dhoni for the failures overseas. For millions, Dhoni was the true culprit behind the twin whitewashes in England and Australia. But were they correct in blaming Dhoni to such a colossal extent?

Well, had the critics of MS Dhoni analyzed the defeats well, then their mindless words may not have surfaced on a global platform.  On the first day of the very first test match in England, India’s spearhead of the seam bowling department, Zaheer Khan, broke down, and limped off the field courtesy of a hamstring injury. Zaheer limped off, only to return to India and the 13.3 overs which he bowled, were his only overs of the tour. For the rest of the test, India were without their best bowler, and the spinner Harbhajan Singh too was in his worst phase. Praveen Kumar was the only one who troubled the Poms to a certain extent. The Indian batting card was a line up of misery. Only the Wall, Rahul Dravid resisted the might of the English bowling. What followed over the next five days was shambolic for India. The visitors lost the game by  196 runs. Indians were positive, that the team would bounce back in the next test match, but the tale for the next seven overseas test matches had been destined, and a gloomy phase awaited team India.

Over the due course of the 8 overseas test matches, teams changed and venues changed, but that grim look on Dhoni’s face remained the same. In the due span of those 8 test matches, Indian news channels were busy cursing Captain Cool, even without examining the facts.

To win a test match, it’s the duty of the bowlers to get 20 wickets. But when it comes to overseas test matches, the Indian bowlers are all at sea. Ishant Sharma, who was termed as the ‘next big thing’ during the controversial Down Under tour in 2007-08 averages 37.56 with the red ball. Well, those numbers are even unacceptable for part timers; and Ishant is considered India’s premier seamer. Ironic isn’t it? Ishant, during those 8 drubbings took 16 wickets and averaged 68.18 runs per wicket. The numbers speak for themselves. To criticize Dhoni, people often allege that Ishant wasn’t given attacking field settings to bowl at. In the first case, Ishant was all over the place in those 8 test matches. It was only in the first 2 of the eight tests, where Ishant looked mesmerizing. In the rest of the six tests, he was a free ticket to the batsmen. From bowling poor line and lengths, to dropping sitters off his own bowling, Ishant had been the antagonist in several ways.

If the seamers don’t bowl according to the plan, then it is the duty of the spinners to bowl with responsibility. But team India took a beating in that department as well. If we consider the last four overseas test matches (South Africa and New Zealand tours), where in the team has shown some character, then too the spinners do not have good numbers. The four tests in South Africa and New Zealand make it 12 winless overseas tests for India. In those 12 test matches, India has tried 4 spinners, but none of them has performed as per the expectations. Among those 4, Ravindra Jadeja was the only one, who did moderately well. His show on the green Durban track was worth its weight in gold. His 6 for in the first innings of the Durban test, was the only bright spot in the spin department in the 12 overseas tests. The four spinners in the span of 12 tests average 76.86 runs per wicket! And yes, they are considered to be assets to the team!

The following are the stats of the spinners who have played in the 12 tests:
Harbhajan Singh
Amit Mishra
Ravindra Jadeja

The stats of the spinners portray a sorry tale. If the bowlers are not able to perform then why are people still cursing MS Dhoni? A question that may sadly never have an answer.

To set aggressive fields for the bowlers, a captain must have a respectable total on board. To add to Dhoni’s woes, even that wasn’t possible in several matches for the Indian team. The batting if not worse, was equally embarrassing as the bowling. In those 12 test matches, the Indian team averages a mere 27.12 per wicket. Nothing more needs to be said about the “world’s best batting lineup”. MS Dhoni, in the 12 matches, averages 25.4. But kindly don’t forget that he has that added burden of wicket keeping and captaincy. The batting and bowling stats of the team, depict and summarize the sorry state of the Indians when it comes to overseas test matches.

So, is it right to blame MS Dhoni alone for the losses? Well, even after showing you the stats of the entire team, you still feel that Dhoni is the culprit, then you are a pro MSD hater, and nothing more. In those 12 tests, the team has failed as a whole unit, and not just MS Dhoni, who is being mercilessly targeted.

Amidst those 12 tests overseas, Dhoni has captained India in 15 tests at home, and won in 11 of those, losing just 2. But sadly those 2 losses which came against England, meant that for the first time in 8 years, India lost a test series at home. But if we look at the positives, the Aussies were whitewashed 4-0 under Dhoni’s regime. A question to Dhoni critics will put them in troubled waters. Which other captain has whitewashed Australia?

In the Australia whitewash, Dhoni led from the front, and played one of the greatest knocks in test cricket, scoring 224 off just 265 balls. The knock punctured the Kangaroos for the rest of the tour. Playing the aggressive brand of cricket is what takes Dhoni to the top. In the last  test played in Wellington, Dhoni looked aggressive from the start and scored 68 runs off sheer dominance. In the past as well, whenever Dhoni has been aggressive overseas with the bat, he has done well. For instance the twin 70’s in the Birmingham test, in 2011.

The last couple of tours to South Africa and New Zealand have looked promising for the team. In the first test of both the tours, the team was on the verge of defeating the respective hosts. But it was either the bowling or atrocious umpiring which didn’t let India win.

Cricketing greats like Rahul Dravid have hailed the team for their show in the previous couple of tours, and have said that Dhoni should captain in tests atleast till the Australia tour next year. Any decision on his captaincy should be taken after the Down Under tests in January 2015. Till then lets give MS Dhoni his space and hope that team India does well overseas.

  Can Dhoni create history in England?

1 comment:

  1. Although I have no qualms against dhoni. but I think there is too much politics involved in our team selections.. MERIT does NOt count