It is not easy being an Indian captain and neither is it easy being Mahendra Singh Dhoni in today’s times © PTI
By Bhavesh Bhimani
They said his time is up.
They said he doesn’t deserve to be in the team.
They said his ‘luck’ has finally run out.
But trust Mahendra Singh Dhoni to fight against all odds and opposition to prove his mettle. The unprecedented 4-0 annihilation of Australia has clamped all his carping critics. Dhoni now has led India to 24 victories in 47 Test matches — bettering Sourav Ganguly’s erstwhile Indian record of 21 wins from 49 Tests.
There are debates galore on social networking sites about Dhoni and Ganguly to determine which of the two is the best-ever Indian captain. Some hail Dhoni as the best-ever captain, while some still prefer to call him a lucky leader who is merely reaping the rewards of what had been ‘set’ for him. Dhoni, to his credit, has always played down such comparisons. He just goes about his business in the way he knows best. The fact that the Indian captain’s batting has hit a purple patch has left many of the anti-Dhoni brigade scurrying for cover. However, one cannot deny the amount of attention Dhoni creates in the country — perhaps, second only to Sachin Tendulkar. Like him or hate him, you cannot just ignore Dhoni. Unfortunately, for all his contributions to Indian cricket, people from certain parts of the country continue to malign Dhoni and belittle his achievements, which is extremely sad.
Let us briefly look at some of those allegations that are constantly and unfairly targeted at Dhoni:
Allegation #1: Dhoni’s overseas record is abysmal
It is quite surprising to find even noted cricket historians trying to belittle Dhoni’s captaincy record in Tests by claiming that Dhoni is still way behind Ganguly when it comes to Tests overseas — the latter has 11 away Test wins as compared to Dhoni’s five. However, these historians conveniently forgot to mention that out of Ganguly’s 11 Test wins as a captain, six have come against teams like Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. Ganguly never won a Test match in South Africa or New Zealand, which Dhoni has.
Ganguly’s contribution as a captain cannot be belittled, but to keep his away record on a pedestal to constantly vilify Dhoni is uncalled for. Agreed that the disastrous tours to England and Australia under Dhoni cannot be ignored, but then it was a collective failure of the team.
Allegation #2: Dhoni is not good enough to be in the Test team
His patient innings of 99 against England in the fourth and last Test match of the series in Nagpur was conveniently forgotten, and the series loss led to the clamour for his instant removal from the Test squad. The public and surprisingly even some ex-cricketers joined the chorus for his instant removal claiming he didn’t have the ‘adequate’ technique suited for a Test batsman. Dhoni responded in the way that only he does, with a spectacular, match-winning innings of 224 in Chennai against the Australians in the first Test.
Allegation #3: Dhoni got a set team as a captain
This argument keeps coming, especially from a selected few sections of the country.
There are people — among the fans as well as the media — who would like us to believe that Dhoni got a set team from Ganguly, and the former is merely reaping the rewards of the latter’s effort as a leader. If one were to go by that logic, then the failures of the team in England and Australia should also be apportioned to Ganguly! But such thinking is ridiculous, to put it mildly. There is no denying that Ganguly did a great job as a captain, but why do people conveniently forget that he had the awesome privilege of having great players like Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman and Anil Kumble, among others, at their prime form? Dhoni, on the other hand, witnessed the same players waning in form for quite some time. And except for Tendulkar, the others have retired from the game. The team is under transition and it is now that Dhoni’s test as a captain will come to the fore. And he already seems to have started on a good note with the emphatic 4-0 win against Australia.
Allegation #4: He is a ‘lucky’ captain
Easily the most bogus and imbecile argument that is spread around. It is said that “if you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” That is exactly the case here as some people keep repeating this foolish statement to disparage Dhoni’s achievements as a captain, which are monumental and incomparable. One need not look further than to have a look at Arunabha Sengupta’s piece, A scientific look at Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s supposed luck factor, to clear their clogged minds. But then again, people who have an agenda to pull Dhoni down will continue in the same vein, no matter how much Dhoni continues to achieve.
It is not that Dhoni is flawless; he has had his own periods of errors as a captain wherein he has looked jaded and over-defensive. But it is not easy being an Indian captain and neither is it easy being Mahendra Singh Dhoni in today’s times. The hallmark of a true leader is one who learns from his mistakes and is eager to lead by example. Dhoni has scored in both these points in his ‘comeback’ as a captain if you can call it that. As was seen in the series against Australia, Dhoni was a lot more pro-active and aggressive as a leader. He has learned well from his past mistakes and that augurs well for Indian cricket’s future. However, in actuality his ‘rise’ started a few months back. While his team kept floundering around him, Dhoni came to the fore as a batsman with some thumping performances. His 113 against Pakistan in the first One-Day International (ODI) was a knock that exemplified his grit and determination.
The Indian team has slowly started to rise from its failures and is responding with the same grit that the captain has shown them by his own example. There is no denying that team does looks more assured, albeit a few issues remain. One has to be patient and give time to this new and inexperienced lot to settle into a groove.
Dhoni has been severely criticised for backing players like Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin. But it these two men who were the principal architects of India’s clean sweep of Australia.
The crater that Dhoni will leave behind once he retires would be extremely difficult to fill up. The multiple jobs he handles so efficiently is something people will only appreciate once he bids farewell to the game.
(Bhavesh Bhimani is a freelance journalist who got hooked on to cricket after watching the 1996 World Cup. His Twitter ID is https://twitter.com/bhaveshthetiger)