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Captain Dhoni, Where are the Answers?

Another big match and India falls flat on the ground in an ‘apparent’ thrilling game. South Africa bettered its head to head count in World Cup record against India to 3-0 with the win last night. The match wasn’t very important from the qualifying point of view but certainly was a show piece of where the team stands against the bigger opponents. It was a kind of reality check for team India before the Quarterfinals and we can only hope the team confronted its reality.

I had mentioned in my last post after the India-England tie, top teams always answer their critics through their performances in big tournaments like World Cup. On the contrary, Team India is creating more questions through its performances instead of giving answers. In that post, I had also pointed specifically that there is nothing great about Indian batting as long as the problem of sudden collapse of the batting line up persists. The same question remains even today. The self destruction by the Indian middle and the lower order should make the team to ask itself, “Batting is our Strength, no?” Most of the fans and analysts feel orgasmic while praising India’s batting prowess and they believe that the Indian batting can compensate the ordinary bowling attack. Perhaps the team management also believed in such theories. They had to be woken up. Last night’s result should have worked as a wake up call.

It is beyond any doubt that India’s loss can be attributed to that 9 wicket fall within 29 runs span. India might have got to a 290+ score to make us believe that Indian batting still has the elements in it to fight, but it is also note worthy that India couldn’t play the full quota of 50 overs of its innings. This was similar to the England game. In that match too, the team couldn’t manage to play the full 50 overs. Where lies the problem? How can the world’s best batting line up be unable to play 50 overs? Indians’ sense of history being very poor, many may blame it on the timing of the batting powerplay. But that isn’t the case actually. the timing of taking the batting powerplay was not wrong but the way of playing it was wrong. If the failure was due to the batting powerplay, then how to explain the batting performance in the match against England in which India lost just a single wicket during the batting powerplay still lost all its batsmen before 50 overs? How can the loss of 5 wickets in matches against minnows Ireland and Netherlands while chasing scores around 200 be explained?

Yes, the problem lied in the intent of the batsmen. Either they were scared of the batting powerplay (very much unlikely) or confused what to do during that 5 overs. The batsman coming in didn’t know if he should go for big shots to sustain the run rate (risking his wicket) or to stabilise the innings (at the cost of decreasing scoring rate). This dilemma was due to lack of back up plan. In the last article too, lack of back up plans was mentioned as the biggest problem in front of India. Once India faced a better bowling line up and all its pre-existing problems showed up.

For a change, Indian fielding was sharper but dropping catches at crucial stages was still there. Bowling was ordinary, as always. The selection goof up was rectified by going with 3 seamers and one spinner formula on a flat track with shedding the non-performing asset: Piyush Chawla. But the faux pas was committed by the captaincy blunder by not having back up plans and ignoring the batting woes. The match was lost much before Dhoni tossed the ball to Nehera to bowl the last over (which wasn’t a wrong choice in my opinion).

The whole team except Sachin, Sehwag and Gambhir is responsible for the loss but if a single player has to be blamed for the loss, then it has to be Captain Dhoni. MS Dhoni must realise that it is easy to get appointed as captain, but difficult to BE the captain. The real captaincy skill is tested when your luck factor doesn’t work; Dhoni should recognise it. The sooner, the better.

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