Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni is having the roughest ride as Test captain since taking over from Anil Kumble in 2008, reaching a dead end as his side continues to struggle in whites. The images of the man launching the ball into the orbit to satisfy Indian cricket fans’ 28-year-long wait for their second World Cup title at the Wankhede, are slowly fading away as recurring failures in the longer format have taken centre stage.
Consecutive Test losses at Mumbai and Kolkata in the ongoing series against England have heightened Dhoni’s woes. Even before the second Test at Mumbai began, he attracted attention for all the wrong reasons. Following the victory at Ahmedabad, his demand for a rank turner at Mumbai came as a shocker to many. To add to his miseries, English spinners benefitted more from such a demand as they spun India out of the game at Wankhede. As always, Dhoni persisted with his instincts and demanded the same for the Kolkata Test. He acquired a villain-like status after the Eden Gardens curator, the veteran Prabir Mukherjee, branded Dhoni’s demand as illogical and unethical and in turn faced the wrath from Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). India lost yet again as England took a 2-1 lead in the four-match series. Dhoni was clearly running out of ideas, let alone excuses for the poor performances.
Dhoni’s career seems to have reached a stage where nothing is working out for him. Unarguably the biggest blot on his cricketing CV is the back-to-back series defeats to England and Australia. More than the losses, it was the manner in which Dhoni led the side that came in sharp focus. A man who showed great amount of self-belief and utmost faith in his instincts began to crumble under pressure. His confidence dropped and he was no longer ready to take the kind of risks he would’ve taken not more than a year ago. The man who once went against the odds and threw the ball to an unknown Joginder Sharma to bowl the last over of T20 World Cup final was setting defensive fields and began to look out-of-sorts.
Another worrying sign has been the impact of captaincy on his batting. With his aggressive nature, Dhoni could’ve easily been what Adam Gilchrist was to the Australian Test side. Dhoni could’ve matched Gilly’s effectiveness while batting at No 6, taking every bowling attack to the cleaners in his trademark slam-bang approach. Unfortunately, the pressure of captaincy has had a huge impact on his batting. In 2012, he has scored 348 runs in 12 innings at an average of 34.80. In 2011, where India had two abysmal tours, he averaged even lower at 26.89 with 511 runs in 21 innings. The man who was once famous for toying with bowling attacks is now struggling.
Apart from the failures, Dhoni has been a part of way too many controversies which have clearly affected his game. Reports of differences with Virender Sehwag, problems with pitch curators over his demands and most recently an alleged complaint to BCCI about Gautam Gambhir… it’s truly been a bumpy road for him.
In such a situation, Dhoni should consider the option of letting go the captaincy in a bid to revive the fearless and nonchalant middle-order batsman who set the international stage alight in 2005.
(Prakash Govindasreenivasan is an Editorial consultant at CricketCountry and a sports fanatic, with a soft corner for cricket. After studying journalism for two years, came the first big high in his professional life – the opportunity to interview his hero Adam Gilchrist and talking about his magnificent 149 in the 2007 World Cup final. While not following cricket, he is busy rooting for Chelsea FC)