Mumbai: Ex-New Zealand skipper Stephen Fleming has backed Mahendra Singh Dhoni as still the best option to lead India in Tests notwithstanding the squad’s 1-3 defeat to England, saying it was pointless to make a change without addressing problems that the team has.

Fleming, who also coaches the Dhoni-led IPL team Chennai Super Kings, was of the view that there appeared to be no viable alternative to the flamboyant cricketer.

He said it is fine just to say that the captain has to go, but if you are giving the problem to someone else without a strong solution then you are just papering over the problem. But how far you go with that will be a Board decision. That comes down to what the succession plan is. Who is next in line, who is putting pressure on Dhoni?

Dhoni may still be the man for the job but there might be some changes within and without. Those questions need to be asked rather than the emotional black and white response he has got to go.

Dhoni’s captaincy has been criticised by several former cricketers following the team’s humiliating defeat in the five-game rubber and Fleming agreed the wicketkeeper-batsman was under pressure following the dismal result.

Fleming knows that Dhoni was under pressure as the leader of the side. His form with the bat was good, but certainly the captain always gets looked at when the series goes wrong.

He cannot speculate in terms of his place. What he can answer with my experience is that when your team is not playing well, you are under pressure as a captain. How far that pressure goes and how long it goes is an issue for your Board or decision-makers.

Maybe Dhoni under pressure is still your best option. He has got the experience and I know he has got the respect of the dressing room – they are two pretty important ingredients. What you need is the results to go in your favour and then everything is right.

Fleming was surprised at how quickly the fortunes of the two rival captains in the series – Dhoni and Alastair Cook – changed after India won the Lord’s game for a 1-0 lead.

If somebody look’s at Cook at the start of the series you could say he was exactly under the same kind of pressure which Dhoni is now. For it to reverse so quickly is somewhat astonishing and that is what people are trying to get their heads around. How quickly the series has changed and quite rightly are asking  for answers.

Team’s chief coach Duncan Fletcher has also been under pressure and, in fact, has been superseded in the hierarchy by the appointment of ex-skipper Ravi Shastri as Team India Director for the ODI series starting Aug 25th by BCCI.

But Fleming said blaming the coach was deflecting from the issue of players not performing well.  

He wondered whether there was some lack of communication in the team which, if true, they might have to work upon.

When you are under pressure, one of the first things that can be solved is communication. We know working in isolation or in a little group, you are achieving very little. When things are going well, you are bubbly and talkative and natural communication flows but communication is very much required.

Fleming now expected the visitors to bounce back and put up a better show in the five-match ODI series.

The New Zealander referred to changes made in the team’s coaching support staff after the Test series loss and said they, too, should be made aware of the lessons.

Looking ahead, Fleming said it was important for the Indian players to spend time in England and get acclimatised to the conditions in order to do well there.

He hinted that some overconfidence in Indian ranks after the Lord’s victory coupled with the desperation of Cook and some of his senior teammates after that defeat might have contributed to the turnaround in the hosts’ fortunes. England after the loss was desperate to win.

Looking at the few positives gained by India, Fleming said he was quite impressed at the way Murali Vijay applied himself to the job of an opener and the way Dhoni batted in what could be his last visit to England as a  player.

Fleming felt asking some players to keep out of a lucrative tournament like IPL and telling them to concentrate on the longest form of the game would not be easy as they need to be compensated in another way.

Fleming felt that key CSK player Suresh Raina was good enough to be in the Test side.

Asked if he was open to the idea of coaching an international side, Fleming said, “not at the moment”.


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