So, after a tete a tete with Mr. Kejriwal, here is my another tete a tete with Mahi. As always, I’m a common man and he is not. So he is not going to answer my questions. Then who is going to answer my questions? Will you tell this to me or should I tell you? I will… so read on!
Q1: Shri Shri, what is the reason for India’s abject failure on overseas tours, particularly under you?
Possibly the answer is, he doesn’t know. Mahi himself has played very well in the last couple of series. But for some reason we have always faltered. We abysmally lost in England. Didn’t learn anything, lost in Australia again. Then played mostly at home, saw Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman retire, played no overseas tour until the recent ‘shorter than T20 match’ test series in SA and lost it as well. So I have no reason to believe that Dhoni knows how to win overseas. Yes his predecessors also didnt win a series. But some have done well than him. And if he is rated the best ever Indian captain, which he is, he should have known the answer. So does the problie in team selection? Lets find out
Q2: Why have you persisted with the likes of Rohit, Ishant and Suresh Raina for that long?
Very difficult one for Mahi. Rohit is a great talent, time and again Raina has finished games for CSK and Ishant looks like a menacing fast bowler. But they all have been consistently inconsistent. Rohit has mostly failed when it mattered and Ishant has mostly not taken wickets when he should have (save today’s performance). But a question Mahi might ask us. If not them then who? At least as of now I cant see any one else we can play in place of Rohit. Ranji has produced some new contenders. But the irony is, top run getters in Ranji change every year. So the lack of consistency starts from there. Besides if we go by Ranji record alone, Rohit was a phenomenal player. As for Ishant, I think the think tank at office has messed up royally. He was indeed a menacing bowler. But time wore him down. He is slowly going the same tunnel where the likes of Munaf and Irfan Pathan have traveled. Classic case of talent mismanagement. May be Mahi thinks he can stem the rot. Otherwise the replacements and peers of Ishant (Shami, Bhuvi, Yadav, Aaron, Pandey) will follow the same route.
Q3: You have mastered the art of pacing the innings. Why do you think every one can do it?
As much as Dhoni criticizes the team in public, the culture the team is getting into is the same that he himself follows. Dhoni is lazy when he comes to bat, takes time to settle and then hammers every bowler. He is able to do it. But what about others? Shikhar Dhawan never knows what is right. Should he let the ball go or put the bat in the way. We have lost 2 ODI series back to back without registering even 1 win due to poor death bowling and lack of mindset by the opening bowlers. If not captain, who else will guide them?
Q4: What makes you think we are the best fielding side?
Obviously we are not, and you know it. But when the players of national level stop following basics, it hurts. Mahi himself was an average keeper when he came on the international scene. But he was a better batsman than his rival (DK) and he proved his worth eventually. When he started playing, we had the best slip fielders in Dravid and Laxman who were followed by Ganguly, Tendulkar and Sehwag. Even Kumble has fielded in slips. Number of catches these guys have collectively dropped in the whole career is probably lesser than number of catches current team dropped in SA and NZ. It has cost us matches. And I’m sure Dhoni is worried about them as a captain. Slip fielding is more like wicket keeping without gloves. It needs a patient mindset and the eye on the ball… always. I remember Mongia used to help the slip fielders. Isn’t Dhoni telling them how to hold on to catches the way he does?
Q5: Do you think you can turn this team around?
Obviously he thinks he can. I have a doubt, though. He has the best talent at his disposal. They all, as individual players, are menacing. As an opposition, I’d have been fearing for my life to bowl at Dhawan, Rohit, Kohli and Pujara. But it is not happening. I see the reason in the way Dhoni manages the team. He is consistent in his own performance because he is methodical. But at times, especially in sports, one needs to be passionate. I always remember Tendulkar’s assault on Warne as the classic example of passion followed by Laxman’s 281 & Dravid’ 180 at Kolkata & Galguly’s 144 on a bouncy Gabba. We have to win not because we are superior on paper. But because we believe we can ans must win. Australia’s recent turn around is a classic example. They had an inconsistent lineup with misfiring seniors (Warner, Watson, Johnson), inexperienced fringe players (Bailey, Smith, Rodgers) and not-so-potent individuals (Siddle, Harris, Lyon). They were led by a mild mannered leader who wasn’t able to unite the team only 2 series ago. But they fought. And boy, how! Can we do it? We did it once under Dhoni (T20 world cup 2007). Can we do it again?