In India, comparison goes hand in hand with performance. Whenever a player performs or is not able to perform he is compared with his counterpart as cricket is followed like a religion here. Indian cricket has been shattered twice in the history of the game; once in 2000 when the match fixing scandal broke out and then in late 2005 when the captain-coach saga occurred and in a chain of events India were knocked out of the 2007 World Cup in the group stages. Will Dhoni suffer a similar fate to that of Sourav Ganguly? The nightmare looks a very certain possibility.
In India, cricketers are subjected to a lot of criticism, intrusion of the media and the pressure to perform. One man who has faced all this is Sourav Ganguly. This man has seen it all. Will Dhoni face the same situation?
Flashback to Indian cricket 2002-2007
In 2002, India performed well to draw the series against England and Australia. They defeated Pakistan in both one-dayers and Tests in Pakistan and finally ended up being the runners-up in the 2003 World Cup. After this golden phase passed, Indian coach John Wright retired and Gregg Chappell became the coach of the Indian cricket team. India kept on winning but the captain Sourav Ganguly did not perform consistently with the bat. India lost the Border-Gavaskar trophy 2-1 with Ganguly controversially out for the last two tests sighting injury. India won in Bangladesh and Zimbabwe and the Indian captain was back in form but he was banned for 6 matches. The coach felt he must be dropped from the side. The selectors made Rahul Dravid the captain for the Asia Cup. India had failed to qualify for the finals and Sourav was now officially dropped from the squad. At home, large protests took place even though India beat Pakistan in a home series. Sourav was recalled into the test team as India toured Pakistan. Sourav failed to deliver at the right moment and was again dropped for the home series against England; mediocre performance by the team in tests but they clinch the ODI series. India were knocked out of the 2006 Champions trophy, and failed to qualify the finals for the Singapore tri series and a whitewash in South Africa paved way for the comeback of Sourav Ganguly as a player (not captain) and he smashed 83 runs when the team was on 59 for 4 on the verge of severe shame at Johannesburg and then in his comeback ODI match, he piled 98 runs before getting run out.
MS Dhoni has been facing a similar situation. Indian cricket team has scaled many new heights, winning the T20 World Cup, defeating Australia in Australia in the one day internationals, winners of the Asia cup after 16 years, a 1-1 drawn test series in South Africa for the first time (although they lost the ODI’s 3-2) and finally winning the biggest and most prestigious one of them all – the 2011 World Cup. After Gary Kirsten’s exit India’s new coach Duncan Fletcher has taken up the responsibility. Indian cricket has seen been facing tough times. India lost 4-0 to England in tests and then to add to the shame, lot 4-0 to the Aussies and failed to reach the finals in the Asia Cup.
The emergence of Gautam Gambhir is one of the main reasons why critics have started to target MS Dhoni to resign from the post. Gambhir’s aggressiveness and good captaincy have helped KKR to win the IPL Bold decisions taken by Gambhir in the finals to rest McCullum and bring on Bisla helped him KKR clinch the trophy as Bisla was on fire that day. One of the main reason why we love Dhoni is because of his aggressiveness and bold decision-making. But in the last 8 defeats in foreign soil, we did not see the Dhoni we were used to and his batting form looked quite miserable (2, 12, 2, 57, 23, 6, 3, 17, 74, 77,0, 5, 16, 28) with just 3 fifties in the last 16 innings in foreign soil.
Dhoni’s impeccable batting displays and his understanding of the ODI format will always be missed if he is dropped or sacked but in Test matches, he needs to find form. With Rahul Dravid retiring and VVS Laxman not far behind, Dhoni has to either ‘step up’ or ‘STEP DOWN’ in Tests.
Dhoni and Ganguly are two peas from the same pod. Their service to the game should never be underestimated. Dhoni’s masterstroke of letting Ganguly captain the side in his last Test had made many wonder why Ganguly had to retire so soon. Ironic. Similarly, Dhoni should be given another chance before people speculate about his dip in captaincy performance or dropping him.