Mahendra Singh Dhoni actually didn’t want to miss out on such a golden chance to lead a young Indian side amidst a season packed with important Test matches. In Zimbabwe, leading a second-string squad, Dhoni made the most out of the opportunity by guiding the team to secure a whitewash against a relatively weak host side, and also ended his 20-month wait for an ODI series win. But the shocking defeat in the first T20I once again encouraged the critics to pounce on his mistakes. But think a bit, why is he so reluctant to give up captaincy? Isn’t it affecting his reputation?
The ODI series victory, despite coming against the minnows must have given him a welcome respite. Over the past two years, he had gone through a severe drought in his colourful trophy cabinet. The 34-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman, being at the helm of the One Day Internationals squad after retiring from Test cricket, has been a mere shadow of his glorious past.
After a 2-1 home series win against West Indies back in 2014; under Dhoni India have faced some tough defeats in the 50-over format of the game. Just before the 2015 World Cup, India finished with not a single win in the tri-series involving England and Australia. Again in the World Cup, India were thrown out of the event in the semi-finals after losing to the hosts Australia.
The Men in Blue had to taste the rock bottom when they were literally humiliated in Bangladesh after young pacer Mustafizur Rahman left the full-strength unit devastated. Dhoni’s increasing problems also aggravated when South Africa clinched a series win in India.
At a significant time, when Virat Kohli captained the Test squad to back-to-back series wins over Sri Lanka and South Africa, Dhoni seemed tattered and simply clueless leading his ODI unit which was facing a run of pathetic defeats.
Neither did 2016 came with good luck for the experienced skipper as India lost to Australia 1-4 despite Kohli and Rohit Sharma mounting on heaps of runs.
From being one of the best in the business, Dhoni over the past 12 months, has gone on to become the lacklustre figure in his team.
Once upon a time on his helm, Dhoni was famous for his bold moves. He surprised everybody when he entrusted a rookie pacer to bowl the last over of a World T20 final, a daring decision that later gave him a masterstroke.
Interestingly, in the recent past, Dhoni had to face a wide range of criticisms for being reluctant to make changes. His persistence with some under-performing players in the team had an ill-effect on the team. For instance, just take a look at the case of Shikhar Dhawan. The left-handed opener had a long rope in the 2015-16 T20 season, despite coming up with seven single-digit scores from 16 matches. However, he didn’t wear his luck ahead of the all-important World T20 semi-final clash against West Indies as Dhawan was scrapped from the first eleven.
In the ODI series against Zimbabwe also, Dhoni was not in a mood to test his bench strength in the last match even after an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series. Youngsters like Jayant Yadav and Jaydev Unadkat simply had to enjoy the proceedings from the bench throughout the series as Dhoni didn’t want to make wholesale changes.
Another important point you cannot ignore. In recent times, Dhoni, whenever he had to suffer a defeat, took shelter in his bowlers’ poor performances. He hasn’t been confident with his pacers and has often overlook Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron. His persistence with medium pacers likes Mohit Sharma and Sreenath Aravind has been severely criticised.
In recently concluded Indian Premier League 2016, Dhoni didn’t even use Irfan Pathan for the most part of the tournament and stuck with Rajat Bhatia. He was forced to make a change after a consecutive losses but it was too late for Pune Super Giants that time, who finished the tournament seventh in their debut season.
On the other hand, Virat Kohli has kept faith on his pacers a lot more and the approach has worked wonders for the Indian team. Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma performed their best against Sri Lanka and South Africa and led India’s winning campaigns from the front.
Also, sticking with his same old set fields for even bad deliveries has highlight the defensive mindset that has affected Dhoni’s decisions.
What about his batting genius? Alarm bell ringing here also. MS Dhoni’s superhuman knocks which used to do the job for India over the years are now becoming a rarity. Once popularly known as the greatest finisher is not being able to finish games as good he used to be. The fading magic was exposed drastically during India’s Australia tour earlier this year. In the five one-day internationals, Dhoni despite coming into bat after solid platforms built by the top-order batsmen, failed to deliver the necessary acceleration in the death overs. With Dhoni, moving on at run-a-ball in the end overs, India were decisively 20-30 runs short in almost all the matches.
Former cricketers, particularly Sourav Ganguly, who once was quite optimistic about Dhoni’s future with the Indian team, has been disappointed to see the captain’s reluctance to promote himself higher up the order. After retiring from Test cricket, if you don’t give yourself enough time in the middle, then it’s not a step in the right direction. That’s what exactly happening with Dhoni.
India’s limited over’s captain may be getting bored of answering the same old questions again and again but the fading abilities to motivate the team give critics every right to grind Dhoni about his significance in the Indian team.
Dhoni seems to have chosen an indifferent attitude at press meets when uncomfortable questions are being directed at him. The way Dhoni ridiculed an Australian journalist after a retirement question on the bank of India’s defeat to West Indies in 2016 World T20 semi-final, it actually speaks about the volumes about a captain who is scared of the harsh truth.