Curious case of Mahendra Singh Dhoni

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.

MSD

(c) India Today

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.

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Why it makes sense to have different captains for ODIs and Tests

The recent results in overseas (and also domestic) test matches have again led me to think that we need different captains for the longer and shorter versions of the game of Cricket. There is no questioning the commitment of MSD– Maverick Singh Dhoni. But the facts, recent records and his own admittance shows that he is not fit to lead the team in the longer versions of the game. And to prevent fists of fury from some of my readers, I have reasons to prove.

One, remember when he won the inaugural T20 world cup for India? He was given a team sans the big names and players with international experience except Sehwag and Harbhajan. Every one else including Dhoni himself was either new or still very fresh at international scene. They were all domestic players, the Ranji class. Besides it was the first T20 world cup. No team knew the best strategy. So every one played to their potential without being too much into the ‘strategy’ thing. There were no egos to be buttered, no conflicts to be resolved. Just 3 hours of pure, cheeky cricket. Dhoni thrived (and eventually mastered the art).

Two, remember his innings of 183 not out very early in his career? Dhoni, to me, looks like a warrior with a cool head. He believes in individual brilliance than team games. T20 is about individual brilliance. Misbah ul Haq had almost single handedly won the world cup for Pakistan. But he goofed up at crucial junctures in both semis and finals. And we won the world cup. Even in the ODI world cup, he stepped up, said I want to hit the winning runs… and did. But was there a strategy for including or not including Piyush Chawla or Sree Santh? I wonder.

Three, ODIs and T20s are about quick decision making while tests are about patience and perseverance. Dhoni, to me, is a “I knock you out with one punch” guy. But that strategy can win fights not battles. To win battles, you need to plan your future, even if it is at the cost of few losses. Dhoni always accepted whatever team was given to him and played with it. He won the fights, but lost the battles… most of them. He hardly introduced young players, and didn’t stand by some of them who he managed to introduce (read Rohit, Pujara, Rahane, Mukund, Varun Aaron etc.) To build a world beating team, he needs to choose his players.

Remember the battle of Troy? I can compare Dhoni to Hector, prince of Troy. He managed to fend off the might of Sparta with astute, but short term strategies. Every one knew Troy couldn’t be a world beater… and they eventually lost to Sparta. But Hector is still known as one of the best warriors. Dhoni too is one of the greatest players India has had. But all his successors (Rahul, Anil Kumble or Ganguly) were all better test captains than him, sans Sachin Tendulkar. Without hurting any one’s sentiments, Sachin is (and will remain) the greatest batsman in the world. But he was equally bad captain.

India plays the next test series only in September 2012. I hope we find a worthy head to lead us in Tests while Mahi continues to pour success in the ODIs and T20s. Amen!

Even Steven on the boxing day!

(c) Reuters

This was the most anticipated day, perhaps, for Indian cricket lovers apart from the final of the world cup that India won. To be a bit unfair to Sri Lanka, India’s victory in Mumbai early this year to become the world champions of cricket has become less of a fanfare in my memory, thanks to the fact that we won it against Sangakarra an and his men. Had it been Australia or Pakistan, it would have been different.

Anyway, let us come back to the boxing day test match. I was sort of hoping India to bat and Sachin to redeem himself with a hundredth hundred at the MCG on the boxing day. Perhaps that chance went to his counterpart Ricky Ponting and unfortunately he blew it away after a fine fifty. Yeah unfortunately because I have loved to hate that man (RP, Rick, Punter or %$@$%# whatever they call him) and I wanted him to gracefully retire with a flowing century.

The day belonged, and rightfully so, to the two youngsters. One of them is a debutant, Ed Cowan who let Australia’s batting and other Umesh Yadav who, only in his third test beautifully led Indian bowling. So the boxing day was great with both sides dealing blows, neither of them killing. Match is in the balance now and it remains to be seen if Sachin scores his hundredth hundred at the MCG or not.

I’ll not be posting more about the series here, unless he scores a century or if we win the series or both.

The Dream Team!

I’m writing this post while the Indian Cricket team is polishing their hands for a feast of a dinner in Durban. Well, if you ask me, it is difficult to pick the chocker between India and South Africa. Both have an impression of wilting under crunch situations. I hope it is not us this time. Anyway, this post is not about the series. It is about the ‘dream team’ for 2011. ICC has picked one. So there is no reason why I shouldn’t pick one myself. So here it is, 15 players listed, the playing eleven and the 4 extras along with a line on why they are here. I have chosen them considering all formats of the game. One team for all. I’m sure you will agree. Continue reading

India Wins!

… and how? Phew!!! What a match it was. When I logged on to cricinfo, we had already lost 8 wickets. In fact I logged on in the very over when Dhoni ran himself out and Harbhajan played a rash shot. All hope lost as soon as I decided to look for some.

… and then I saw VVS Laxman still playing on the other end. It looked as if VVS had dug a hole on the pitch and screwed himself in there. Man! Was he troubled at all? He almost single handedly carved a win for us. Almost…

… and of course, giving him company on the other end was Ishant Sharma. For the records sake, Ishant is a fast bowler. Given his latest performances, I generally make faces when I see him in the playing eleven. But he proved me wrong this time. He not only bowled well for the short spell in the second innings of Australia, he also displayed some character with the bat. Good job Ishant!

… And India wins! Congratulations to all those who support our team.

Sachiiiiiin Sachin!

Image courtesy- BBC

Apna Tendlya has done it again. He conquered the mammoth figure. He did it, yes he did. I just dont believe it. So many times he came close to it. Few times other good players came close to it as well. But finally he did it. He scored the double hundred in a one day match!!! 200 not out.

Sachiiiiiin Sachin!

Such is the familiarity of that chant whenever he comes out to bat. Such is his stature that who’s who have bowed in front of him. Such is the magnanimity of the occasion whenever he is batting, whether winning a match or trying to save a match. Such is the aura behind the man who leads almost every possible record in international competitive cricket. Such is Sachin Tendulkar.

Jahapanah, tussi great ho! I salute you. A million congratulations!

The News Makers of 2009

2009 is on his way out. Here is my take on the 10 most featured and most discussed news makers of India in 2009. Remember, this is only my take on the people, places, parties and things. Enjoy!

  • Ajmal Aamer Kasab: A guy like hi needs no introduction. Unlike the others who accompanied him through the sea route, created a havoc on Mumbai on 26/11/2008 and died for their cause, Ajmal Kasab was captured alive and looks all set to very much remain alive for the year 2009 too. The shoddy governance and the inability of the police to frame the case means Kasab keeps doing the U turns on his confessions and enjoys a protected stay, savoring Chicken Biryani. Shame on us and our judiciary system.
  • Chandrayaan: This has been a major boost to India’s mission to moon, or should I say ISRO and its space programs. After already spending close to some $ 80 million on the project, the shuttle final entered the Moon’s orbits and boy, what a job it did. The ISRO scientists not only claimed but proved that indeed they found water on moon. It came as a shock initially to every other nation. But later it was confirmed and accepted even by NASA. Chandrayaan 1 has made us a lot proud. Chandrayaan 2 is already in progress and slated for a launch in Dec, 2013.
  • Sonia Gandhi, Dr. Manmohan Singh and Congress: It makes me wonder, why is the Congress government elected time and again? There are many people like me. But none have the answers. So I have no choice but to accept the good performances by Dr. Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi yet again. Despite the terror attacks and the instability, Congress managed to come back to power and is very much likely to stay. AT least we have a stable government. I’m happy.
  • Sachin Tendulkar and the Indian Cricket Team: Indian team and Sachin Tendulkar were both in the news for long time this year. Although they could not repeat the success of the T20 championship they won two years back, they did scale new heights by convincingly beating almost all the teams they played against (including Australia) and captured the pinnacle of test cricket rankings in November after they beat Sri Lanka. Sachin Tendulkar surpassed the world record of being the highest run scorer in test cricket beating Brian Lara and also completed his 20 years in international cricket. I think he might have easily surpassed the definition of a Legend as well.
  • Large Hadron Collider: I simply dont know what to comment on this one. It simply created a lot of furore and panic around the world. But nothing really happened. The had scheduled a second run in November. I’m sure it was successful. But what was the end result of it? Has it answered the fundamental question of the existence? WIll it answer in future? I’m sure we will hear more of it in future.
  • Stock Exchanges, Dr. Y V Reddy and Dr. Subbarao: That name Dr. Y V Reddy appears there in the heading because I think he was largely responsible to prevent India and Indian banks from going down the recession drain. Dr. Subbarao, who took over from Dr. Reddy as the governor of RBI had himself acknowledged the fact that it was difficult for him to match what Dr. Reddy had done. But he indeed matched. The stock market did plummet to 8 thousand some thing, but bounced back and thank fully doing well. India is credited today for largely keeping the economy stable despite difficult economic conditions. All credit to Dr. Reddy, Dr. Subbarao and and the financial planners
  • Tiger Woods: Again, need I say more? A person who redefined golfing also went ahead and redefined the serial monogamy. The stories of his casanova acts are dominating the world news papers today. And there are so many, it might even over shadow Giovanni Jacopo Casanova, the original one 🙂
  • The Copenhagen Summit: Climate change is the prime concern today and will remain a prime concern unless we dramatically or radically change the way things are. The summit was attended by the UNFCCC member countries. They did arrive on an ‘agreement’ drafted by US, India, China, Brazil and South Africa, named as ‘Copenhagen Accord’. However it was only recognised and not accepted. This becomes another reference and another conference, meaning Climate change issue will resurface soon.
  • Shiney Ahuja, Ruchika, Jessica Lal, Aarushi: All of them have been criminal cases, some recent and some long pending. Top story earlier was the denial of bail for Shiney Ahuja, who is accused of raping his minor maid. Recently the Jessica Lal murder case and the Ruchika molestation case has been reopened. The debate still goes on. The talking point, in my opinion is, there are many other Ruchikas and Jessicas around us. We need to reopen them all. This is why most of the common people do not believe in Indian Judiciary.
  • The bollywood flops: There have been many. Consider this, 138 films have been released in 2009, and only 4 of them can be classified as hits. Sorry state, isn’t it? Bollywood was not even helped by the ongoing feud between the distributors and producers as well. But that remains the story. It started with Ghajini (released in Dec 2008), then we saw Love Aaj Kal, Ajab Prem ki Ghazab Kahani, New York and finally 3 Idiots. And all of them have been differently made movies. I think the KJo’s and the Chopras of Bolly world need to under stand this. The viewer is short of patience. SO dont show us another Kurbaan or a Dilli 6. Dont teach us… entertain us!

So thats me Mayur signing off 2009 on a happy note. Happy new year to you all. Ta!