Why we should be patient with MS Dhoni in Australia and beyond
The Indian Cricket Team hit the road once again in a couple of days time taking on Australia in a 5-match ODI and 3-match T20 series Down Under. This is perhaps the most significant phase as far as limited-overs cricket is concerned for the Men in Blue who would be in action almost non-stop, in a four-month stretch, that would hopefully end on a victorious note in Kolkata on the 3rd of April in the final of the World T20.
The upcoming series of matches will be an acid test for the likes of Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh, Ashish Nehra etc but it would also serve as an examination for limited-over skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
The 34-year-old has been under the pump ever since he decided to play just in coloured clothing for India with every defeat bringing up the now very common question among fans and supporters- Is this the end of MS Dhoni?
Now let us cast our mind back a bit to the Press Conference when the squad for the series versus Australia was announced. The secretary, Anurag Thakur along with reading out the names of the players, added another statement, which goes as follows:
We named Mahendra Singh Dhoni as the captain as we wanted to end the speculations in the media. Not only media but players in general should know who will be their leader
Now the question that arises following this statement is this: Was this something that needed to be clarified to the general public? Wasn’t it clear from a pretty fair distance that Dhoni was to lead India at the World T20? What caused the secretary to come out and say this?
The answer: It is we the public.
The speculation has been rife and quite strong in the past few months about the Ranchi-born cricketer quitting the international game altogether in a few months time.
But the fact that after every reverse against every team, we have started to chit-chat about whether “THIS WAS IT” for him has caused a growing doubt among everybody whether every series or match that Dhoni plays and fails would be his last and this in my view is downright wrong.
When India lost to Bangladesh in June last year, the daggers were out well in the open and for the first time in a decade-long career, Dhoni showed his emotional side, stating that he would be willing to step down if the performances of the team improved.
Why this sudden statement then? Because we have been hammering him down with every little error that he has made and putting further pressure on a man, who is already taking everything on his chin without showing the slightest of emotion.
After the World Cup semifinal defeat versus Australia, Mark Nicholas put forth a question to Dhoni about his plans moving forward and an emotional captain said he would wait until the World T20 and take a call after that.
Was that question necessary, considering that anybody who has followed his career will know that it has been the limited-overs game that he has enjoyed always more than the longer format?
Give the man time and more importantly, the respect he deserves
Sachin Tendulkar retired from ODI cricket in the end of 2012 and after 2009, one can say that he almost semi-retired from the format, picking and choosing the series that he wanted to play. Ever since then, it has been Dhoni who has heralded a the-then developing team, whose members today form the pillar of the Indian batting and bowling setup.
The likes of Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Ravichandran Ashwin, Umesh Yadav and many more are a product of the faith shown on them by their captain and certainly owe a great deal to him for having stuck with them in the hardest of times.
There are live examples on offer when Dhoni has buoyed a flagging team and made them punch above their weights. The victorious 2013 Champions Trophy campaign, when India lifted the title against all odds, after having endured a torrid previous 12 months immediately spring to mind.
After they failed to make the semifinals of the World T20 in Sri Lanka, lost to England in a Test series at home for the first time in 28 years and then suffered ODI series loss to Pakistan at home. And yet despite all that, Dhoni led a young team to the trophy, thereby making everybody stand and take note.
Last year at the 2015 World Cup, he lifted a side insipidly down on confidence and form and led them magnificently throughout the Group stage and the quarterfinal before falling to a rampaging Australian side in the semis.
Even most ardent of Indian supporter would have had his doubts over how the team would fare in the quadrennial event, but the bowlers, in particular, came out and surprised all with their exploits in every match.
Let’s give Dhoni some time before coming out with daggers or “ open swords” as he said after his superlative performance against South Africa in the 2nd ODI at Indore in October.
A couple of days earlier, he had failed to score 11 runs in the last over against a 20-year-old Kagiso Rabada in Kanpur, thereby letting the critics start the talk all over again.
This is a man who has won everything there is to win in the limited-overs game and done so with a mediocre bowling attack on most occasions.
There are countless instances in the past few years when India have racked up the runs but due to an inexperienced bowling attack have found it hard to defend them because they have not just had a capable arsenal at their disposal. Yet Dhoni has backed them to the hilt and given them the confidence to correct their errors and improve every day.
I was never a fan of Dhoni the captain in Test cricket but never once have I doubted Dhoni the limited-overs leader. He will go down as a modern-day great in the limited-overs format and like all us, there are certain things that suit us and certain things that don't and in the same way, playing in coloured clothing gives Dhoni the luxury and the comfort to do what he does best.
He is neither God nor a perfect human being but like all of us, even he hates to lose and sometimes, no matter how great you are, your best plans will not get executed and that was solely the reason for India’s ordinary show in bilateral series in 2015.
For once in the Australia series and every series after that, let's give our captain time. Time to perform. Time to show his mettle and most importantly, Time to breathe. He definitely deserves that much from us.