The Indian cricket team is "very average" at the moment and is "lucky" to have a captain like Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who is coping the blame for "lack of quality in the side", feels former England skipper Geoffrey Boycott.
"...Do you judge captains on their win and loss ratio, or do you take into account or consideration the quality, or lack of quality, in his team? If you're thinking about India, there's a lack of quality at the moment, lack of quality seam bowling, lack of quality spin bowling, and in some cases your best players are beginning to retire after getting past their sell-by date. Aren't they?" Boycott told 'ESPNCricinfo'.
"(Rahul)Dravid and (VVS) Laxman are gone, (Sachin) Tendulkar hasn't got any runs recently, so is it his [Dhoni's] fault?," he asked. "I don't think so. I don't judge people on the loss and win ratio of the team. You have to look at the team. You are damn lucky you've got MS Dhoni," he asserted.
Dhoni has been under severe scrutiny after the recent home Test debacle against England even though he has been in decent form personally. Boycott said Dhoni has his limitations as a Test skipper but the Indians don't have a quality replacement at the moment. "I think he is a brilliant one-day captain. Like a lot of people, I think he has good leadership skills of the players but, tactically, in Test matches, there's quite a bit to be desired. But you haven't got anybody else you can call upon," he explained.
"A nice set of lads, but in terms of other quality sides around the world, you are very average and you are not going to win with average teams. And the captains always get blamed. Captains tend to get plaudits when the team wins, which I think is unfair," Boycott said.
The former batsman said Dhoni cannot be held responsible for the slide because India is a team in transition right now. "...the captain always gets the blame when you lose. It's like in the war, losing generals always got the sack. It's like that with Dhoni; because India have hit a sticky situation, with some of the best players retiring or getting to the end of their careers...Zaheer Khan's gone, Harbhajan's gone, Dravid and Laxman have gone, Sachin is towards the end of his career," he pointed out.
"It's very difficult to replace players like that with young kids and do well, and Dhoni's getting the flak for it, he's getting the blame. I don't think it's Dhoni's fault. So you've to be careful about blaming people for the lack of quality in the side," he said.
Talking about other Indian players, Boycott said star opener Virender Sehwag, who has been dropped from the ongoing ODI series against England, was lucky to hold on to his place for so long. The Englishman felt Gambhir was also fortunate to be continuing despite deteriorating technically.
"Sehwag is lucky to be in the team, really. He's an explosive, fascinating, unpredictable, brilliant batsman, absolutely keeps you on the edge of your seats. But, I'm afraid, father time comes to everybody, and he's getting towards the end."
"And Gambhir, he seems to have played so much one-day cricket that his technique has suffered, he's getting himself out, I don't think he's the force as a player as he once was," Boycott said. "As a batsman, he is still a good player, but his technique has suffered, I've watched his footwork and everything. He's making mistakes himself so it's not going to help putting himself forward as a captain, as a Test player who can be certain of his place in the side," he added.
On the promising Virat Kohli being seen as India's next captain, Boycott said the youngster still has quite a distance to cover before emerging as leadership material. "...he's too much of a firebrand and all. You want his passion, you want his emotion, you definitely want that from your players but, I'm sorry, you want a cool head at times. That's what Dhoni has and Kohli hasn't got a cool head," he said.
"He's got aggression, passion, emotion, they are all plusses. On the negative side, he loses his cool, you can't have the captain losing his cool. He is the one person. "He might be on fire in the heart, but the head has to stay cool, because he's got to think of the team, not himself, eleven players, not himself. Kohli has got a bit to learn yet," he added.