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MS Dhoni is currently playing two series — on the field against England , and off it against the BCCI officials. H Natarajan writes about the predicament that Dhoni finds himself in and which is not helping Indian cricket in any way.
First, the timing of BCCI to get rid of the team’s bowling and fielding coach midway through the English tour did nothing positive for the team. The decision was mindless and insensitive. It was mindless, because it only served to disrupt a team that is already battling many demons; insensitive, because it showed little care to two men who have been long with the team. If changes were felt necessary, it could have waited till the end of the tour. The decisions did not affect either the players or the coach [Duncan Fletcher], which further underlined the mindlessness.
Even as reports swirled around that Fletcher’s wings have been clipped by the appointment of Ravi Shastri as Director of Cricket, Dhoni told the media before the first One-Day International at Bristol that Fletcher “will lead us into the World Cup.” He further added, “He [Fletcher] is still the boss. We have Ravi Shastri who will look into everything, but Fletcher is the boss. It’s not as if his powers or his position have been curtailed. I don’t know what you feel from the outside, but operations still remain the same. We have a few other support staff coming into the dressing room, but overall the operation remains the same.”
This was a strong, emphatic and public statement. It was most uncharacteristic of Dhoni, who is known to hold his cards close to his chest. In all likelihood the BCCI decision would have created great uncertainty and unease within the team. So, against his nature, Dhoni would have felt the need to do what was best for the team as a damage control measure by putting Fletcher on a pedestal.
Going by the various statements flying in the air, it seems that Dhoni was not consulted before the decisions were made to sideline the existing coaches and get replacements from India, as also to make Fletcher report to Shastri. As the skipper said: “It’s a bit tough on Trevor [Penney] and Joe [Dawes], especially when fielders drop catches and the fielding coach has to miss the series.” It left nobody in any doubt that the captain has no grievance against the coaches.
When the captain is making such a statement, how confident will the new coaches — Sanjay Bangar, Bharat Arun and R Sridhar — be stepping into the Indian dressing room?
A more potent is: Why did BCCI not consult the captain, as it always does, in such matters?
It’s well possible that BCCI decision would have irked Dhoni — and other team members — and which resulted in Dhoni going public with what he felt. But Dhoni touched a raw nerve on two counts:
1. By saying that Fletcher is the boss, which contradicted Shastri’s earlier statement that all coaches, including, Fletcher will report to him [Shastri].
2. By saying that Fletcher will lead Team India into the World Cup.
Though Fletcher’s tenure as coach extends till the 2015 World Cup, Dhoni seems to have overstepped the mark by making the second point as the BCCI is well within its right to get rid of the coach and find a replacement. In fact, the general feeling among the cricketing fraternity, and the appointment of Shastri was seen as hint for Fletcher to make way gracefully.
But worse was to follow. The Indian Express, published a story quoting an unnamed BCCI official that “Dhoni can’t decide who should be coach. BCCI will decide it. At the same time, we also want to add that it is the selection committee that will decide the coach and captain for the World Cup.”
The situation got messier when Shastri told Times Now that Dhoni is the “only boss” of the team, which was a subtle way to downplay the captain’s statement that Fletcher was the “boss”. In all the cross-firing, Fletcher has remained a mute spectator, which he is anyways at all times — much like Dr Manmohan Singh was when he was India’s Prime Minister.
The future of Fletcher and the other support staff will be taken at the next Annual General Meeting (AGM) before West Indies begins their tour of India on October. But October is still more than a month away. The knee-jerk reaction of BCCI in sidelining the coaches midway through the tour, the contradictory statements made by Dhoni and Shastri, the plight of Fletcher and the immaturity with which BCCI functionaries are making statements against the captain when Team India is still touring are all contributing to push India deeper in the quicksand that it finds itself in. What is needed is a statesman-like approach from all concerned so that the team recovers quickly before it starts the defence of the ICC World Cup. Egos need to take a backseat in the larger interests of Indian cricket.
(H Natarajan, formerly All India Deputy Sports Editor of the Indian Express and Senior Editor with Cricinfo/Wisden, is the Executive Editor of CricketCountry.com. A prolific writer, he has written for many of the biggest newspapers, magazines and websites all over the world. A great believer in the power of social media, he can be followed on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/H.Natarajan and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/hnatarajan)
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