Dhoni's uncharacteristic loss of cool could be catharsis of bottled-up frustrations

Captain Cool loses it…… MS Dhoni in a rare exhibition of anger (left) against the umpire after Michael Hussey was recalled after being given out. Right: Dhoni having an exchange of words against fast bowler Brett Lee. Both incidents were in the CB Series match against Australia on Sunday © Getty Images


By Nishad Pai Vaidya


The events of last week saw everything there is in one-day cricket for Mahendra Singh Dhoni. As a captain he witnessed all the three possible results – win, loss and tie. The batsman in Dhoni became the hero of two successive run-chases. He then cut a sullen figure in an unsuccessful third. The week that started with the world heaping praises on his calmness under pressure ended with the ugly sight of him losing his cool on the umpires – very, very uncharacteristic of the man. The full circle of events was completed with a one-match ban.


This isn’t the first time on this tour that Dhoni has been banned for a slow-over rate. He missed the fourth Test at Adelaide for a similar breach in the third Test at Perth. As a captain, it is Dhoni’s responsibility to ensure that his players get back to their respective marks and the overs are completed within the allotted time period. Interestingly, India had played four fast bowlers at Perth, a strategy that they employed at Brisbane for the One-Day International (ODI) against Australia. Fielding the extra pace just extends the time factor.


In fact, there are times when the Indians look very casual on the field in between overs. The change of ends and the field consumes a lot of time leading to such consequences. It isn’t that they display such tendencies in every game, but the odd game where they show the lack of urgency is enough to cause damage. Under the new rules, two such offences result in a one match ban for the captain.


Dhoni had also borne the brunt of the over-rate rule in ODIs over two years ago. The penalty was harsher then as he had to sit out for two games. The increasing number of breaches points underlines Dhoni’s failure to learn from his mistakes. You can commit a mistake once, repeat it the second time, but to sustain the same for a third recurrence speaks of carelessness. While marshalling his troops on the field, the over-rate may have been the last thing on his mind as he would have tried to stop the run-flow and build pressure.


On the other hand, the two previous instances should have highlighted the importance of completing the overs within the allotted time. The factors that are under his control can help him avoid such bans in the future. If they are wasting time between overs, he can ask his team mates to have a move on. Secondly, he can get the bowlers to set the field faster so that there aren’t too many stoppages. Things like injuries, sight-screen issues and the batsmen calling for drinks etc. aren’t in Dhoni’s hand and he can just hope that these things aren’t frequent during the innings.


The drama surrounding Michael Hussey’s stumping appeal brought out a different and a previously unseen side of Dhoni. The third umpire, Bruce Oxenford pressed the wrong button and ruled Hussey out when he intended to do the opposite. The umpires were quick to stop Hussey from leaving the ground to ensure that the right decision had been made. What followed was absolutely unexpected as Dhoni was seen having an animated talk with the umpires – even pointing his finger at one juncture.

Uncharacteristic show of anger by Dhoni

By reacting quite angrily, Dhoni image of a man in control of his emotions, especially against officials, has been dented. His demeanour has been an epitome of sportsmanship, be it his smiling face at post-match interviews irrespective of the result or withdrawing the appeal to run-out Ian Bell. His wrath was an uncharacteristic display and it doesn’t reflect well on someone who is looked up to for good behaviour on the field. The fact that the batsman was called back within seconds suggests that it was a genuine error by the third umpire and he was quick to realise it. There was no reason for Dhoni to unleash his fury as Oxenford’s mistake was inadvertent. Furthermore, it was surprising to see Dhoni exchanging a few words with Brett Lee during India’s batting. It was quite a change from the Dhoni who doesn’t respond to such chatter and goes about doing his job quietly.


The error by Oxenford, however, is the second time during the tri-series that the officials have been involved in a minor oversight. The five-ball over during the India-Sri Lanka tie at Adelaide was a talking point for quite some time. And now the Hussey recall. But it was quite simply a human error. It is only coincidental that they have happened in this short span of time.


Dhoni’s reactions, however, seem to be a catharsis of bottled-up frustrations. “Captain Cool” may just have lost his tag – even if it’s momentarily.


(Nishad Pai Vaidya, a 21-year-old law student, is a club and college-level cricketer. His teachers always complain, “He knows the stats and facts of cricket more than the subjects we teach him.”)