On the eve of the third Test Match between England and India MCA’s distinguished high-performance coach Dr V. V. Giri had some typically astute comments about the Indian captain, M. S. Dhoni. Will Edgbaston see the beginning of an Indian revival, or will England continue to impress and surprise? In either case, Dr Giri provides MCA members and other readers with plenty to think about.
The Missing ‘Midas touch’
“When Kapil bowls to Dean Jones, where will you field?”
Sunil Gavaskar asked Srikkanth this question at the dinner table on the eve of India-Australia match during the 1985 Benson Hedges World Cup in Australia. India went on to win the Cup in a most convincing way and, as you all know, Ravi Shastri became “Champion of Champions” posing with an “Audi” car.
This Cup victory was a typical example of the “Planning” and “Home work” a team is expected to do before a cricket event. Every team does its home work and SWOT analysis on its own men as well as on the opponents, and has clear plans, back-up contingencies, etc. Planning is extremely important in Test cricket. The teams are provided with a batting coach, bowling coach, fielding coach, psychologists, managers and a chief coach to help the captain to have options and plans. Strangely, Indian captain M.S.Dhoni doesn’t believe in planning. In an interview after the World Cup, he openly admitted that he is not a planner and doesn’t believe in team meetings. Thus I wonder why the BCCI is wasting their money and time on coaches and sub staffs for India. We have often seen Dhoni making blunders in reading the wicket, conditions, and opponents and then have seen him end up with bad toss selections, not to mention playing eleven selections. In the recently concluded World Cup he made many mistakes in team composition (by including Piyush Chawla, Nehra and Sreesanth over Ashwin), which nearly knocked India out of the WC. That statement by Dhoni shocked many, and people concluded that the captain was winning through instincts and luck. Of course, Dhoni has been known for his “Midas touch” — right from the beginning, when he beat Pakistan in the T20 World Cup. But since the West Indies tour this year, things have not been working in his favor. Playing Test matches overseas, especially in England, is tough for any captain. India have already suffered two defeats, and the fingers are pointing at the captain. Now, is this the end of the glory days of Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the captain who could do no wrong? Considering how India have fared in two Tests in which, in phases, they had as much of a chance as England to win, it is only right to conclude things have caught up with Dhoni.
Even in the extended theatre of Test cricket, opportunities do not come knocking more than once. And India spurned those two chances at Lord’s and Trent Bridge and will probably slide freely back to the old days and old ways. It was when the opportunities came knocking that the ever cool, super-instinctive Dhoni joined the ordinary mortals who had led India before him. The first instance came at Lord’s when England were 92 for five and in danger of being bowled out. But Dhoni, who has been known to push on with his main bowlers like a strict task master far more than many of his gentler predecessors, was inclined to agree with a young Ishant Sharma that he needed a rest, that too after a 40-minute luncheon break. The second came when England, under grave threat of being bowled out under an overcast Nottingham sky, began counterattacking through Stuart Broad. It was here that Dhoni stood exposed. He was as clueless about how to get past Broad as the many Indian captains before him who had merely stood with their hands on their hips when the bowlers failed to deliver. A once smart Dhoni, guided more by instinct than the ordinary rules of battle engagement, had very little to offer.
I know watching television is not the best way to come to easy conclusions. But it did seem as if the skipper had no clear guidance to give to his bowlers when they were being taken apart by boundary hits. There were no strategy time outs, as it were, to help his bowlers regroup and focus again on the task at hand. Dhoni was never one to overtly help bowlers by holding deep conversations with them. He was more the type to give them a free run once he chose a bowler to keep on in the attack. He was always seen as the ultra cool skipper who backed his bowlers to deliver. Somehow, those tactics, admirable as they always seemed, did not work at crucial junctures in this winner-take-all kind of Test series.
Adding to all these problems, his indifferent form with both his keeping and batting is haunting him. In the first two Tests in England, Dhoni was clearly struggling in wicket keeping and he had no clue about swing bowling.
India is facing an ‘English White Wash’ in this series. I think Mahi won’t be seen anymore as the “Captain with the Midas touch”.