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The curious case of Dominica - Dhoni did the right thing

MSD under fire

Sometimes the mind wonders that we INDIANS are a crazy bunch of fans. One minute we lavish praise on our heroes and the very next moment, we leave no stone unturned to savage them for their slightest of ”so called errors”. It goes without saying that the shelf life of these reputations is sometimes one over, one ball or just one decision. Yes, just one decision…!

There is hardly any margin for error. And after a successful WC campaign, MSD and Co are now feeling the heat. They have found themselves amidst a raging storm-a storm which emerged when India decided to shake hands with their Carribean counterparts at Dominica with the scoreboard reading-86 to win of 90 balls. All hell broke loose when the Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni called off the chase and all of a sudden, the man who was the cynosure of all eyes a few weeks back now found himself in a jeopardy! Some said that as the No 1 test team, India should have chased the total down with ease. Some remarked that the intent was missing  and some fans blamed MSD for his excessive defensive approach as a captain. I pondered over this situation a million times -Would I have liked India to win the series 2-0 instead of 1-0? 2-0 looks better than 1-0 , doesn’t it? Of course, there is no doubt about that. But then, this decision was clearly influenced by the conditions and situations that prevailed in the middle and honestly speaking I am totally comfortable with it.

MSD did what he felt was right for the team. There was no need to risk blowing away a 1-0 lead after having lost those three wickets. But I am really gutted at the response team India is getting after this drawn test. Some of  the predictable feedback criticising India for not pushing in for a win were just outrageous and devoid of any logic. One of the followers on cricinfo remarked after the third test ended in a draw-

”Ohh god. Being in the generation of T20′s,calling off a test match needing 86 runs off 90 balls looks crazy to me.”

Thats why the cricket greats fear that test match is gonna die sooner than later because of the advent of T20. One needs to understand that you can never compare a T20 with a test match. If ever the Indian campaign executed that strategy, then perhaps they would have cruised to victory but one needs to look at every aspect thats involved in a game. The bowling sides don’t have any fielding restrictions and add to it the freedom of bowling negative lines and all of a sudden the chase starts looking a bit tricky. The T20 mentality can never help a team succeed in test matches. Yes, I agree that you need to be aggressive as a team to pump a breath of fresh air in the long and tiring 5 day format but that can never be at the cost of your team. Another fan added :

“Shame on India. Black day for cricket.”

This was melodramatic from every stretch of imagination and rightly portrayed the mood that prevailed among the masses after the drawn test. Frankly speaking, I was also hoping that India wins the test match and the draw did sadden me but never for a moment did the thought of criticising the team cross my mind. I have been following the gentleman’s game for close to a decade now and have closely monitored the progress of team India in the test arena. Undoubtedly, this team has been brilliant on the field. They have all the ingredients of a champion side. The aggression, the desire and above all the effort – effort to stay at the top. I have welcomed India’s recent success with great honour and dignity and I have been equally vocal about their drawbacks after an unlikely loss and this time I totally stand by the team’s decision to step back and for those who say that India didn’t show the intent to win, I guess they need to go through these few points:

  1. Murali Vijay, right from the start of the chase looked his usual self. It was quite evident from the way he batted that he was given the license to go for the kill. That certainly brought the best in him and after spending close to a month in the Carribean, he panned out his IPL trademark shot which clearly suggested that he was enjoying his stint out there in the middle. The strike rate was clearly better than his last appearances and he looked like a man on mission.
  2. Just for a moment it seemed as if Rahul Dravid was putting to effect his IPL avatar. After the early loss of one wicket, he looked to hold forts at one end and anchor the chase but there was a moment in the innings where he seemed to have stepped on the gas. He looked to score freely and managed to do just that.
  3. Once vijay departed,Raina was sent in ahead of Laxman to up the ante.

Isn’t this enough to suggest that India were actually giving it a go?As I said before,the intent was there but the situations seemed to have taken a toll on India’s progress. Here is what compelled India to think of calling off the chase:

  1. In small and tricky chase like these,it is quintessential to have a good opening partnership and India seemed to have faultered at the very first step – Abhinav Mukund was out first ball and this was indeed a set back for the numero uno test team.
  2. During the initial overs, the ball was doing all sorts of tricks and WI pace spearhead Fidel Edwards was charging in at the batsman all guns blazing. There were a few nervous moments wherein it seemed that we would see the back of Dravid sooner than later but he survived the initial scare.
  3. Not to forget that this was a fifth day wicket and the slowness of the pitch accompanied by the turn that spinners were extracting was making life all the more difficult for the batsmen.
  4. Both Dravid and Vijay counterattacked with a flurry of shots and the run chase was well on track but Devendra Bishoo immediately came round the stumps with a leg stump line and suddenly it seemed that his line and the aggressive mindset of the Indians are not going well together. The WI bowlers were succeeding in putting brakes to the scoring rate and finally the disciplined bowling from Bishoo payed rich dividends as Vijay was dismissed in an attempt to break the shackles.
  5. Suresh Raina was then promoted up the order to tackle Bishoo’s leg stump line but as ill luck would have it, he was dismissed c&b by Rampaul.

Raina’s dismissal pretty much sealed the fate of the match. Though one might argue that MSD should have promoted Kohli up the order but we can’t ignore the fact that Kohli wasn’t at his best throughout the test series and sending him ahead of Dravid would have been a risky choice by all means. In chases like these, the onus is always on the in form batsmen and not on their aggressive colleagues. Though Dravid looked good in the middle, but by the time India lost 3 wickets, Dravid’s scoring rate had become delinquent. And add to this India’s inexperience in the lower middle order and one would say Dhoni did the right thing by settling for a draw.

Some feel that India didn’t live upto the tag of champions. And following it was the age old tradition of Indian cricket fans-comparing India with the likes of Australia and West Indies and asking all sorts of questions-”Would Australia have done the same thing during their prime?”, “Would WI of the 1970s have given up the chase so early?” For God sake, stop all this nuisance. Stop thinking about the past and learn to live in the present. The present says that India is numero uno in tests and they truly are the deserving candidates. Last night, I was reading an article when I came across a baffling section which argued that India are the numero uno in tests only because the stats say so and they don’t really deserve to be at the top if their performances and approach were taken into account. In a nutshell, it said that ICC stats are ambiguous. Ah well, then I guess Aussies aren’t the deserving No 1 in ODIs either. Based on recent form and approach, India is way ahead of  Australia but we still are behind them. Isn’t it? Actually the real problem is, we as fans seem to go one step ahead and tend to give our expert opinion on every aspect of the game. We forget that those who are in the middle obviously know better than us. More often than not, our idealistic views seem to clash with what the team has to offer. Here is a skipper who a few days back was praised for his brave declaration and now he finds himself in all sorts of mess because of one decision. Dhoni loves to keep things simple and that he did. Given the fact that the test squad was loaded with youngsters which included 3 debutants,a series victory by 1-0 margin is indeed more than satisfying. Weather permitting at Barbados, we could have been 2-0 up but there is no use of crying over spilt milk. A series win in all 3 formats of  the game with a young brigade is a massive achievement.So lets just stay away from all this outrageous blame game and back the team for future challenges.

Heres wishing MS Dhoni & Co all the very best for the upcoming England tour. It promises to be a cracker of a series.

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