Mahendra Singh Dhoni is too smart for his own good

first_imgIf any doubts remained about the state of Indian cricket after the 0-4 whitewash in the Test series against Australia, they have been set to rest by the failure of the Indians to make it to the final of the one-day tri-series. While a distinct pattern emerges from the performance of Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s team in the two formats of the game in the tour Down Under, there is yet a need to distinguish the showing in the one-dayers from the debacle in the Test matches earlier.Policy One, the quality of the performance in the one-dayers has not been of the abysmal kind we saw in the Tests.Two, while the Test matches led to serious questions being raised about the batting superstars of yesterday, the issue had less relevance for the one-day team since it was a largely young side that India fielded, with Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag being the only players who belonged to the old order. The fact that this young side was found wanting, with our batting prospects of tomorrow – if one were to exclude Virat Kohli who has been the find of the tour – failing to adapt to the Australian conditions, raises a question mark over the team’s future prospects.Three, the manner in which the team management handled the tri-series may well have played a good deal of role in the eventual outcome.That some tendency to find scapegoats had been at work as far as the discourse on aging superstars during the Test series was concerned became clear when a new set of ‘veterans’ – Gautam Gambhir (30 years old) and Virender Sehwag (33), besides Sachin Tendulkar – became the centre of debate during the one-dayers. In Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s schema, playing together the three, who were slow on the field, would have entailed the batsmen having to score 20 extra runs. So without playing a single match, without giving the team a fair chance the management went in for a rotation policy.advertisementMind you it was this very team that had won the World Cup last year. With the one-dayers being a different format altogether, the team management ought to have wiped the slate clean after the whitewash in the Test series, stuck to the basics and pushed the team’s strengths.But it seems that the criticism that Dhoni received after eight successive losses in overseas Test matches had played on his mind in negative ways, giving rise to a personal agenda of sorts. We had a glimpse of it earlier when on the eve of the vital Perth Test, he strangely talked about quitting the longer format of the game. Speculation has been rife about his rift with Sehwag for long but a captain that thought positively would have taken care to keep his flock together and put his best eleven on the field. By going in for a rotation policy he may just have come in the way of the team, especially the opening combination, finding its rhythm. It was forgotten that this was not the first time that the Indians, never known to be the sharpest of fielders, were going to play on the big fields of Australia. Why, they even won the tri-series the last time they toured Down Under.Alternative Dhoni only compounded matters by going public on the issue. Having the team atmosphere vitiated was the last thing the Indians needed at a time when the focus should have been on doing well in the tournament. The Indians had in fact not done badly in the first half of the tri- series, having won two and tied one out of the first four matches. Significantly, if Sehwag is to be believed, the veterans had been given a different explanation for the rotation policy, with building a team for the 2015 World Cup to be held in Australia cited as its aim.Rotation or no rotation, Dhoni was not under any obligation to play Tendulkar, Sehwag and Gambhir in all matches. Sehwag had been an underperformer in the Test series and after a couple of poor showings in the one-dayers he could have been rested. But resting Sehwag or for that matter Tendulkar should have happened on the basis of their batting performance. This approach would have also helped avoid the bizarre scenario of a Gambhir who had got two 90s having to sit out for one of the matches.Tendulkar The debate over whether Tendulkar should continue playing ODIs provides a good example of how Indians approach their cricket, seeing it as less of a team sport and more about individual performances. When the tour Down Under began, all attention seemed to be on Tendulkar getting his 100th ton. It even seemed as if the 100th century was more important than the team’s prospects. With Tendulkar having failed to oblige, the same instinct was at work again in the form of calls for his exit from the shorter version of the game. It seemed to have become irrelevant that Tendulkar’s poor showing, though significant, was part of the larger failure of the Indian batting line- up which saw no one, barring Kohli, Dhoni and Gambhir, even manage an average of 30.advertisementAlso overlooked was the fact that Tendulkar has, by choice, largely stayed away from the one-day format in recent times – of the 61 one-dayers India has played since March 1, 2010, he has featured in just 18. Keeping in mind the thrashing the Indians got in the Test series it was in fact good that Tendulkar made himself available for the one-dayers. It is another thing that with his presence failing to yield any dividends for the team and his biological clock touching 39 in April, he now needs to take a call on his future.But Tendulkar’s future is surely not the most important issue facing the Indian team in the one- day format, as is being made out. The real challenge arises from the poor account that the Rohit Sharmas, Suresh Rainas and Ravindra Jadejas gave of themselves in Australia, players who are supposed to be the flag-bearers of India’s cricketing future.devbrat. [email protected] mailtoday. inlast_img read more