I was waiting for the fourth test match to begin to write this post. I have been waiting to write this post for a long time anyway. It needed the right motivation and setting to really express my concern, consulting advice, caution or a plain rant about the state in which Indian Cricket is right now.
To be honest, I’m not a trade analyst or a cricket pundit. I’m little bit of a business analyst but I don’t consider Cricket as business, though it has become one now. I’m a pure cricket loving, patriotic Indian cricket fan. And I look at the game from the eyes of a desperate fan who wants to see his team win, or at least show some fighting spirit. This ‘spirit’ in the Indian cricket has been missing for the good part of 20 months after we won the world cup. To a large extent, this has to be attributed to one man called as Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
I’m an admirer of MSD’s cricketing style. He is a great player and massive hitter of the ball. I’m thankful to whoever the selector was who insisted on MSDs name and coerced Ganguly/John Wright to choose Dhoni ahead of any other wicket keeper in India (notably Dada’s favorite Parthiv Patel and Kumble/Dravid recommended Dinesh Kartik). He had taken the ODI arena by storm with some cracking centuries and then lifting the inaugural T20 world cup. Brilliant he was then, but mediocre he has become now.
There have been volumes of arguments on the ‘Talent v/s Attitude’ debate. Dhoni, to me, is a bit of both. But just like his nemesis Sehwag, he doesn’t have enough steam to either summon the talent when needed or show the attitude and grit when the chips are down. The grit shown by a captain to root his feet down and make sure everyone follows his visionary accord has been missing in Dhonis leadership. He is too cool, giving a feeling of carelessness towards the obvious problems in the team. His choice of players, tactics on the field and placements have been ranging from curious to baffling, which is why people have been questioning his decision making. Team selection for the 2011 world cup is an example.
Demeanor of a leader has to be staunch and authoritarian. Sadly, Dhoni exudes a passive vibe that mostly leaves the batsmen or bowlers to take their own decisions and push the game in all directions. This is what happened with a talented bowler like Ashwin in the just concluded Mumbai and Kolkata test. Dhoni should have walked up to him and told, “Listen friend, experimenting is good. But make sure you don’t give them a practice of playing all kinds of deliveries. Hold a line and attack. We need wickets.” I’m sure Dhoni didn’t say that and we know what happened. Lets take an example of a captain of a small batch of soldiers and a team of surgeons lead by an able senior hand. The captain soldier is more likely to give loud, aggressive motivational speeches to his soldiers. He is likely to shout “Company… March!” every now and then. This loudness is required to instill the confidence and passion in the soldiers. A surgeon on the other hand is unlikely to shout to slogan. For his kind of work, composure and patience is the key. Indian team under Dhoni is a legion of soldiers led by a surgeon.
Sachin Tendulkar is another example of a brilliant player with an abysmal leadership track record. Everyone knows Sachin is a classic example of perfect combination of talent and attitude. Sadly he was never able to infuse the same attitude, if not talent, in any of the youngsters he played with. His stint as a captain was limited. So it is difficult to say if he really groomed any youngsters. But Dhoni has been at the helm for a long period of 5 years. Baring Virat Kohli, Dhoni hasn’t been able to fixate anyone else in the team. Even Virat is fast becoming an ODI specialist. This is one reason I admired Ganguly. He went to an extent of dipping form in his own game to groom youngsters and build a team that laid foundation to the young Indian squad. Sehwag, Yuvraj, Harbhajan, Zaheer who went on to become important players in the team when he was at the helm. It lead to the transition of the team from the Azaruddin era to the Dravid-Laxman era dominated equally by batsmen and bowlers. Dhoni on the other hand had a legion of talented youngsters such as Kohli, Raina, Munaf Patel, Pujara, Ashwin, Ojha, Umesh Yadav, Varun Aaron, Rohit Sharma, Rahane… but none has been able to really sparkle on the international test arena, let alone cement the place in the team.
Change is needed now. Even Ganguly, honestly or disgustingly, was asked stepped down (read sacked) when things were not going good. Dhoni got a readymade team of senior players who were all in form. Now that three of them have retired (Dravid, Kumble, Laxman) and two have been asked to leave (Zaheer, Harbhajan), it is important that we get a man who can rebuild the new team. But who? Virat Kohli? He is sporadic and new on the test scene. May be Gambhir or even Ravi Ashwin. Lets see if the sun sets on MSD. I have been long waiting for a new sunrise.