Has Mahendra Singh Dhoni become a ‘law’ unto himself? Looks like! Is the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) going to do something about it? Unlikely, I reckon.
With due recognition to Dhoni’s achievements as a captain and wicketkeeper-batsman, he has been in poor form with his recent utterances.
First was his outburst at the 50 per cent match fees punishment meted out to Ravindra Jadeja in the all-rounder’s clash with James Anderson during the opening Test against England at Trent Bridge. In his pre-match media briefing at Southampton, Dhoni decided to hit out at match referee David Boon’s decision. The International Cricket Council code of conduct discourages players and officials from commenting on a match referee’s decision.
India captain M S Dhoni with head coach Duncan Fletcher. Recently, Dhoni surprisingly announced that Fletcher is still the boss of the team, even as Ravi Shastri holds the post of Team Director till the end of the ongoing limited-overs series in England. Dhoni also said that the coach will guide India to their 2015 World Cup campaign in Australia and New Zealand. Pic/Getty Images
The same Dhoni made a mockery of public affairs when he sat tight-lipped to questions concerning the spot-fixing crisis afflicting Indian cricket just before the team left for their victorious Champions Trophy campaign in England last year.
More recently, Dhoni stepped out of his crease to tell the media that under-fire head coach Duncan Fletcher would continue to be the ‘boss’ till the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, even as Ravi Shastri has been appointed Team Director till the end of the ongoing limited-overs series in England.
At a time when Indian cricket needs to turn off the surround sound and play some soul music, the captain decides to go off tune. Then, as if to show his displeasure over what has been reported, Dhoni skips the media conference ahead of the second one-dayer in Cardiff. Nor does the team management send a representative for a briefing. This is sheer arrogance and it’s surprising it happens under media man Shastri’s watch. It’s also an escapist approach.
In some ways, Dhoni is no more Captain Cool.
Under him, the overseas Test results have been disastrous, and yet, he still manages to find support from even those who fully realise the importance of Test cricket.
Why no selector on tour?
The BCCI may have their reasons for discontinuing the practice of sending a selector on tour, but not having one for India’s first five-Test series in 12 years was a gigantic error. I am sure the touring selector would have stepped in to impress upon the captain and coach, that it would be hazardous to kick off the Test series without India’s key spinner R Ashwin.
Rohit Sharma, who was dropped after one Test opportunity, may have benefited from the travelling selector, who may also have suggested a change in batting position for the out-of-form Virat Kohli. However, the question is whether Dhoni and Fletcher would want a contrasting view.
Leave alone the three Tests he played, but on what basis did Stuart Binny get picked for the Test series, one doesn’t know.
It is learnt that Binny was the last man to be picked and was not the selectors’ original choice. The captain and coach may have had to justify their choice by picking him in the final XI. To choose Jadeja over Ashwin for three Tests was a classic piece of unnatural selection on tour.
There is no choice but to back Dhoni all the way now, as there is no one in form to wear his captain’s coat. But the fact that Indian cricket does not have another leader in sight, is a sad commentary on our current-day cricket.
Indeed, these are near-unprecedented times for India. In 1991-92, Mohammed Azharuddin’s team had four former captains Kapil Dev, Dilip Vengsarkar, Krishnamachari Srikkanth and Shastri in his playing XI.
The silver lining in this gloomy period is that Dhoni’s men managed a splendid win at Lord’s, which means they are capable of some wondrous Test performances.
December’s four-Test series in Australia may not be as bad as some pundits are expecting it to be, if the Indian batsmen work on tackling the short ball. Sure, the pitches in Australia will be bouncy, but they shouldn’t have the same degree of sideways movement off the seam like in England.
Hopefully, one-day cricket and Twenty20 performances for club and country don’t camouflage India’s weakness in the hardest form of the game.
Clayton Murzello is mid-day’s Group Sports Editor