Mahendra Singh Dhoni, India’s wicket-keeper captain, has been having a bad time for quite some time. After the victorious World Cup campaign in 2011, he was hailed as India’s best ever captain. He had achieved many things which his predecessors could not, like winning the World cup, the CB series in Australia and also, the T20 World Cup. But after seeing his captaincy record for the past year or so, his ability to lead a side has been questioned.
Well, as everyone knows, Dhoni was drafted into the Indian team in 2004. With his big hair locks, he made an immediate impact with a swashbuckling 148 against Pakistan in Vizag. Though his wicket-keeping abilities were not perfect, yet, he was an asset to the team. For the next 2 years, he cemented his place in the playing 11, ahead of many other wicketkeeper-batsmen like Dinesh Karthik and Parthiv Patel.
After the 2007 tour against England, Dravid stepped down as the captain of the Indian team. He, along with other seniors, rejected the chance to participate in the inaugural T20 World Cup in South Africa. Surprisingly, Dhoni was appointed as the captain, ahead of obvious choices like Harbhajan Singh and Virender Sehwag. The selection committee was questioned regarding the decision to select Dhoni as captain. But Dhoni justified their decision.
The Indian team, led by MSD, did the unthinkable by winning the inaugural T20 World Cup. His captaincy and batting skills were appreciated by the whole country.
After Anil Kumble’s retirement, the captaincy in all 3 formats was now in the hands of Dhoni. He had a pretty reasonable start as the captain of test team, managing to win all the home series’, and also drawing an away series in South Africa.
2011 World Cup was held in the Indian sub-continent. Much was expected from Dhoni and his team, who were one of the title favourites. With some inspired performances from Yuvraj Singh and Zaheer Khan, India managed to reach the finals. Sri Lanka posted a competitive score of 270 odd runs. Chasing such a target, that too under the lights, is always tough. The Sri Lankan bowlers were spot on and the scorecard read some 110 odd runs for 3 wickets in nearly 25 overs. Then Dhoni came into bat, instead of Yuvraj. This decision surprised many, as it was Yuvraj who was on form and Dhoni was going through a lean patch. But Dhoni played a captain’s knock and guided India to their first World Cup victory in 28 years.
The whole nation broke into celebration and Dhoni was a national hero. He was regarded as India’s finest captain ever, ahead of Sourav Ganguly and many others. But this celebration did not last long.
India suffered 2 miserable overseas tours, getting whitewashed in both of them. MSD was heavily criticised for his defensive tactics. And now, after getting knocked out of the 2012 T20 World Cup, everyone feels he is not the right man to lead the team.
Now the question arises. Did MSD have the talent to lead a team, or was he always riding on luck?
First of all, in my opinion, Sourav Ganguly was and will remain India’s best ever captain. Because when Dhoni took over the captaincy, he had a ready made team with Yuvraj, Sachin, Dravid and many others well established in international arena and were in pretty good form. The Indian team which Ganguly was handed over consisted of many inexperienced youngsters. He re-built the team, grooming many future stars like Yuvraj and Harbhajan. His tactics and captaincy were the main reason for India’s new found success in overseas tours. But Dhoni’s captaincy in test cricket has been rather dull, with defensive field set ups and lacking the killer instinct.
Secondly, let us look some of the decisions which proved decisive in his captaincy career.
1) Making Joginder Sharma bowl the final over in T20 World Cup final: Personally, when I saw Joginder Sharma coming in to bowl, I was sure that it was Pakistan’s cup to lose. But thanks to a cheeky shot from Misbah, India won the match. But what if Misbah never played that shot? Surely, against a bowler like Joginder, if not for that stupid shot, the inaugural World Cup would have been Pakistan’s and definitely, MSD would have been heavily criticised for not utilising a much experienced Harbhajan Singh to bowl the final over.
2) Promoting himself to 3 down in 2011 World Cup final: 114/3, India were in a precarious position. Every one expected Yuvi to come to the crease and try to make a steady partnership with Gambhir. But it was Dhoni who walked into the crease, and the rest as everyone knows, is history. But what if Dhoni’s bad form had prevailed again and he had failed to score in the final too? Surely, India would have been under tremendous pressure and Sri Lanka would have easily had the upper hand.
The above 2 famous decisions were considered brave and courageous by many. But what if they had gone against him? Surely, there was some luck factor involved.
Finally, his captaincy in test cricket is just too straight forward. The likes of Anil Kumble and Sourav Ganguly managed to win tests overseas, thanks to their attacking mindset throughout the match. But Dhoni has been predominantly defensive in his fielding and using his bowlers in test matches overseas. It was clearly visible in the tour of England and Australia, when India had many opportunities to put pressure on the opposition only to lose advantage thanks to a defensive mindset.
I am not here to say that whatever MSD has achieved is due to luck. Yes, he has been a very effective captain. But one just cannot ignore that lady luck has been favourable to him many times. Now, after so many people are demanding that he steps down from captaincy, this is the right time for MSD to prove everyone wrong, including me and show that his achievements are not due to sheer luck.