We bask in the glory about Sachin Tendulkar scoring so many hundreds. We boast about having the best batting line-up in the world. But what is the use of such batting line-up when they fall like nine pins after dominating the most part of the game © Getty Images


By Abhishek Navratan Jain


We bask in the glory about Sachin Tendulkar scoring so many hundreds. We boast about having the best batting line-up in the world. But what is the use of such batting line-up when they fall like nine pins after dominating the most part of the game.


India has played two games against the big teams in this World Cup, one against England which we tied and the other against South Africa, which we lost. And in both games were in a dominating position for a stretch.


The Indian team faltered against even the minnows like Netherlands, Ireland and Bangladesh. It was fortunate to win these games at the end of it all. India’s chance of qualifying for the quarter-finals hangs in balance following the stunning loss against the Proteas.


Foremost to winning or doing well in a tournament like World Cup is to have a settled batting order. But that is missing in this Indian team, thanks to Mahendra Singh Dhoni‘s arrogance. The only time India had a settled look about the batting line-up, the team put up a huge score against Bangladesh.


That settled look was disturbed by Dhoni in the subsequent matches. This has had destabilizing effect on the players and team. After scoring brilliant hundred in the first match, the brilliant Virat Kohli has just accumulated 55 runs from next four games as a result of being shunted way down the order.


What is an ideal batting order? It’s no rocket science, but Dhoni has stubbornly overlooked this all-important factor. Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag are ideal as openers, followed by Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Yusuf Pathan and  Dhoni himself. This is an ideal batting line-up, but what Dhoni has done is to frequently shuffle the batting order, which has resulted in India losing momentum. The two most affected by the shuffling are Kohli and Pathan.


The Indian bowling is a huge cause for worry. And that’s largely because of the captain’s poor strategies. Dhoni kept defensive fields and allowed opposition batsmen to milk the bowlers for easy singles. There was no pressure on the batsmen to play rash shots.


Dhoni also erred in not fielding the best-available combination. Shantakumaran Sreesanth went for plenty in the opening game, but he has continued to remain in the reserves because of those five poor overs against Bangladesh.


What about Ashish Nehra and Munaf Patel? They, too, have gone for plenty, but they continue to find favour of the captain. Dhoni kept Sreesanth out on the basis of just one performance and kept playing other bowlers despite repeated failures. Why? You need to give space to your bowler and help him rather than warning him through media. Sreesanth is a match-winner and has the knack of picking up wickets. Yes, he is bit aggressive, but fast bowlers need to be aggressive. I never heard Ricky Ponting or Graeme Smith warning their bowlers even when their bowlers behaved in the worst possible manner on the ground.


If a guy has potential, then you have to back him. Take the example of Sourav Ganguly. He backed Harbhajan Singh in his initial years. And Harbhajan was worse than Sreesanth. In fact, he was expelled from the National Cricket Academy because of his behaviour. Yet, Ganguly backed him and never criticized him in public. If Harbhajan is where he is today, he has to thank Ganguly.


I believe the World Cup is over for Team India. And if fans think India will go into semi-finals, then its wishful thinking. It’s not going to happen. The team which was considered main contenders for the title before the start of tournament are now considered doubtful even for the quarter-finals – leave aside winning the trophy.


Dhoni’s poor captaincy and shocking strategies have cost India dearly so far. It will have bearing in the days ahead as well. When any captain says in a mid-tournament “that one defeat is certain”, one can easily understand what kind of mindset captain is carrying and what message he is conveying to his team.


Dhoni contribution as a batsman has also dipped badly in the last one year. The 2011 World Cup is over for India if Dhoni continues to make mistakes and turn a deaf ear to all advice from all quarters. The least Dhoni can do is to heed people blessed with good cricketing acumen. But he remains inflexible in his thoughts and cares a damn for outside opinion.


In a post-match interview, he said that we are not playing for crowds. Tell me, Mr. Dhoni, if the crowds stop watching the game then where you will get those big fat endorsements?


It’s the money of passionate cricket fans that drives the game. So stop making such nonsensical statements and, instead, concentrate on the job and correct your mistakes before it’s too late.


(Abhishek Navratan Jain is a System Engineer and is involved in family business. Cricket is his passion and loves to discuss the game anytime. He has had the distinct privilege of watching all the 99 centuries of Sachin Tendulkar and that too live! He is proud to have never missed a Tendulkar century.)