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MS Dhoni may still remain India’s Test captain for want of options

MS Dhoni may still remain India’s Test captain for want of options
In a tenure spanning close to six years, MS Dhoni (left) has won only four Tests outside subcontinent © Getty Images

MS Dhoni’s terrible record as captain outside the sub-continent makes a compelling case against him. However, he may still lead India Down Under later this year during the Test series, for want of options, writes Nishad Pai Vaidya.

In a tenure spanning close to six years, MS Dhoni has won only four Tests outside the subcontinent. Some may say that Mohammad Azharuddin did not win any during that drought in the 1990s. However, what makes the case against Dhoni compelling is that in the interval, he has lost 13 Tests outside Asia.

Overall, Dhoni is India’s most successful captain with 27 wins in 58 Tests. Bring the limited overs record into perspective, it gets only better with the two World Cups and a Champions Trophy. But, India’s third embarrassing defeat outside the sub-continent under his leadership should only increase the pressure on him.

During the Lord’s Test, Dhoni’s captaincy looked innovative and shrewd. His players had given him the cushion, the confidence to push England. He had the runs on the board and backed his tactics to come good. To ask Ishant Sharma to bounce England out was a masterstroke. There was a touch of audacity, with the short boundaries square of the wicket and a bowler who is not renowned for consistency. At the end of the day, it was Dhoni’s tactic that made the difference and helped India clinch the memorable victory.

But, where did it all go? His slips were dropping easy chances, the batsmen weren’t applying themselves all too well etc. It all went awry from the point where Ravindra Jadeja dropped Alastair Cook on Day One of the third Test at Southampton. As a batsman, Dhoni did much better than his teammates and weathered the storm on more than an occasion. As a captain, he failed to lift his side when their morale was dropping. He failed to inspire them to maintain their dominance after the performance at Lord’s.

As a captain, you are bound to fail at some point in time — it is but natural. What you do after failing is what can define you in any field. Sadly, Dhoni continues to fail as a captain outside the sub-continent. India have been frustrated with each passing series.

Back in 2011 and 2011-12, many felt that the old guard had perhaps overstayed and the mismanagement of injuries is what caused that. But, in 2013-14, India had a young unit, inexperienced. There are reasons why India did not perform well, but they cannot be used as excuses for abject failure.

Take the example of the number of runs India have conceded through third man. In fact, even England did not keep a fielder in that region. But, with a weak slip cordon in place, India’s woes only compounded. The England batsman merely guided it through third-man and milked runs. India could have saved numerous boundaries and plugged that gap. Perhaps England would have only got singles if India had a man in the deep. This is just one example as to how Dhoni had been rigid with a few tactics. Plus, he stuck to the same batting order and didn’t try to perhaps give it a new-look.

Will he hold on to his seat as Test captain?

Dhoni will lead India at the 2015 World Cup and his post for the limited-overs format is safe. No doubts! But, in Test cricket, there may be calls to replace him at the helm. In the past, when Dhoni’s captaincy has come under scrutiny, it was reported that N Srinivasan had played a role in retaining him.

Though Srinivasan isn’t the BCCI president for the time being, he is undoubtedly the most powerful man in world cricket.  Also, Dhoni may still remain as Test captain as Virat Kohli, the next man in line has struggled with the bat. He is also yet to inspire confidence as captain from the limited opportunities he has got in One-Day Internationals (ODIs). And, ultimately, India will face the West Indies at home and Dhoni would be back in his own den, dominating as usual.

Though the arguments against Dhoni are compelling, he nevertheless seems set to remain as Test captain. As of now, there isn’t anyone who can don the role for India. Perhaps it is just a reflection of the phase India are in. Dhoni’s contemporaries such as Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag have fallen by the wayside and the others are simply too young and inexperienced. Thus, Dhoni may still lead India Down Under during the Test series.

Unless, he resigns on his own volition.

Complete coverage of India’s tour of England 2014

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_44)

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