Mahendra Singh Dhoni - From

Is MS Dhoni’s (above) faith in Harbhajan Singh completely misplaced or are there non-cricketing reasons for keeping him in the squad and playing XI? © Getty Images


By Dhananjay Devasper


It’s said that when a man reaches the pinnacle of success, he often forgets what got him there in the first place. Mahendra Singh Dhoni exemplifies that belief going by the chain of events that have unfolded on the West Indies tour and on the ongoing tour of England. Dhoni simply doesn’t seem to know what to do: attack or defend. The last thing Indian cricket needed was for “Captain Cool” to transform into “Captain Clueless”.


Overseas tours can be testing for any captains, especially those from the subcontinent. But irrespective of the results, it’s the kind of leadership exhibited — on and off the field — that defines a leader and his leadership qualities. Anil Kumble’s leadership was exemplary, despite losing the Test series against Australia.


Too many chinks in Dhoni’s armour have been seen of late. The loss of the No 1 ranking — now a distinct possibility — following the defeat in the Lord’s Test and the likely loss of the second Test — as well may just heighten the decibel levels of those baying for his head as Test match captain.


On the recent tour to the West Indies, Dhoni frittered away an opportunity to strengthen India’s No 1 position in Tests by settling for a draw when a win in the final Test was an eminent possibility. Even Darren Sammy, the West Indies captain, expressed his surprise at India not going for the kill.


A leader has to be ruthless in stamping his authority on the opposition. A 2-0 scoreline with India’s bench squad would have been a huge motivating factor for the team going into the England tour. This also resulted in India losing points and making it easy for England to get the No 1 Test ranking if they win the series 2-0.


Dhoni has continued place faith in his close friend Harbhajan Singh whose abysmal form is causing serious damage to the resources of the team. Notwithstanding his tally of 400-plus Test wickets, Harbhajan continues to disappoint and has been a rank underperformer as a bowler — and that’s putting it lightly.


That begs the question: Is Dhoni’s faith in Harbhajan completely misplaced or are there other non-cricketing reasons for keeping him in the squad and playing XI. In the ongoing series against England, Harbhajan seems completely out of place and looks to be the least threatening of all bowlers.


To add to Dhoni’s woes, his personal form with the bat and behind the wickets has been woeful. Dhoni was never considered to be a great Test player, but what set him apart was his temperament and ability to adapt and rough it out when the going got tough. His shot selection of late, when India needed someone to hold one end, has been atrocious. He seems to be completely unsure of whether to attack or defend. In sharp contrast to the strong English lower-order, an out-of-form Dhoni means, the Indian ‘tail’ starts at No 7!


Dhoni’s positioning and performance behind the wickets has been very questionable.


Eminent former cricketers and seasoned journalists have been pointing out that Dhoni has been standing too far behind the stumps and thereby the slip cordon is also out of position to take catches. Most of the catches that have gone to the slip cordon have been taken at ankle level. No wonder then that a couple of crucial ones have been dropped and have resulted in game-changing moments.


While there is no immediate threat to his captaincy, mainly due to lack of options, someone like Dhoni will not want to rest on his laurels. And no matter, what happens in this series, it will take only one victory in the subcontinent to change everyone’s perception of his captaincy. But for the continued dominance of Indian cricket, here’s hoping that “Captain Cool” sheds his “Captain Clueless” avatar at present.


Stay tuned…


(Dhananjay Devasper is an “IT guy” by profession and a sports fanatic at heart. He has an unbridled passion for sports and Indian achievements in sport. Extremely opinionated, he attempts offering perspectives around sports which are simple to understand and easy to relate with)