By R. Mohan
This is a crisis of Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s own making. Much like Greg Chappell, who once ran this team, Dhoni may have believed he is doing Indian cricket its biggest favour by calling a spade a spade. While there is not much to be held against plain speaking, the point is, can a skipper call his senior colleagues ‘mules’ in the middle of a series and drag it further by dropping them from the side in the guise of a rotation policy.
Things have come to a pretty pass now. We have on tour a skipper who is distracted by his noble thoughts on how India is going to defend its World Cup title in 2015. That’s right – 2015, which is three years away. He is so obsessed by this long-term plan of his that he seems to have lost sight of the fact that his team is in a prestigious tri-series it needs to win badly in order to build on its reputation as the World Cup champion while also reviving the lowly stocks of Indian cricket after the shocks of the last nine months.
It was somehow in the fitness of things then that stand-in captain Virender Sehwag, a bitter critic of the rotation policy, should give it back to his skipper who was benched once again for his inability to deliver the minimum over-rate as laid down by the ICC in international cricket. When stood down once like this four years ago, Sehwag questioned the rationale, saying he was a rhythm batsman who played the same game regardless of the opposition and that he needed to play when in form.
Sehwag’s quip about the splendid catch he took was a riposte to a skipper who speaks rather freely about the weaknesses of his colleagues as he sees them but who has a facile and far less critical explanation for anything concerning his own faults or his Test form or for that matter his shabby wicket-keeping on the tour of England. Feelings have obviously been building up within the team and they had to come out when the skipper began knocking his seniors in a media conference.
It was a bit of a shame that the captain and his deputy should fall apart so publicly on tour that the cricket world could laugh at the spectacle of dirty linen being washed in public. It was always an open secret that Dhoni and Sehwag never saw eye to eye on many things to do with the cricket. It was also known that Sehwag and his Delhi colleague Gambhir always gave more credit to the team that won the World Cup rather than the captain.
As a result, Team India finds itself in an old and familiar situation overseas. Never the best of travellers even at the best of times, Dhoni’s men seem to be facing an even greater challenge because they are hardly a cohesive unit now. And with the skipper’s mind apparently preoccupied with planning for the next World Cup, things have been falling apart in the tri-series. Dhoni may not need all his Houdini-like powers to resurrect his side and put it in the final since the results are likely to go three ways in this series. But he has to get his team to perform or take the rap.
A potential knockout situation may arise in the penultimate or last match of the preliminaries and once a team is in the final it becomes a different ball game. The chances of India winning the tri-series are not to be underestimated. Even then, the team is not giving itself a fair chance because of all the divisions caused by our outspoken skipper.
If for some reason India does not get to the final, then Dhoni’s position could become very precarious indeed, not so much in terms of the ODI captaincy as much as true acceptance of his leadership in all sections of the team. He has not proved himself a great leader when under pressure. He is human after all.
By R. Mohan