World Cup win to the Waterloo in England: From the sublime to the ridiculous

MS Dhoni’s World Cup success has been overshadowed by the recent abysmal performance in the Test series against England. His real test as a captain will begin now © Getty Images

By Nishad Pai Vaidya


Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his Indian team have witnessed the highest zenith and probably the lowest nadir in the space of a few months. If April 2, 2011 would have made the Indian team feel on top of Mount Everest, then August 13, 2011 would be remembered as the day they hit the bottom of the Mariana Trench.


Dhoni admitted before the Edgbaston Test that the England tour is one of the toughest of his career as he has had to deal with a lot of problems as a player and as a captain. As a normal player in the side, the South Africa tour of 2006-07 may have been on equal footing with the ongoing England tour. But as a captain, there are no doubts that the current tour of England tops the chart in the difficulty ratings (if there are any).


When Dhoni started off as a captain at the ICC World T20 2007 he amazed everyone with his sharp thinking and exuberance of youth. What caught everybody’s eye was his approach towards captaincy. He was absolutely fearless and didn’t hesitate in taking risks or gambles. Who can forget him backing Joginder Sharma to bowl the final overs of both the semi-final and the final?


When Rahul Dravid resigned from the Test and One-Day captaincy, the reins for the fifty over format were immediately handed to the young man from Jharkhand. Dhoni continued to build on his reputation as the “captain-cool” as he looked in control even in pressure cooker situations. Within the first few months into his captaincy, the seniors such as Dravid and Sourav Ganguly were left out of the One-Day side and a lot of people blamed him for the decisions.


With all the criticism surrounding the non-selection of the seniors, Dhoni produced the results and showed the World that his young brigade was ready to take on anybody. The Commonwealth Bank series triumph in Australia in 2008 stunned not just the Australians but also a lot of skeptics who believed that taking a young side for a tri-series Down Under was a huge risk.


When Dhoni took over from Anil Kumble as the Test captain, the Indian team was more or less set for the longer version. Thus, Dhoni just had to manage the resources well and continue the march towards the number one ranking in Test cricket. Till the England tour, Dhoni looked very much in control of the job but 0-3 down reflects that he hasn’t been able to marshal his troops to the best of his abilities.


Prior to the England tour Dhoni had lost just three Tests as captain and that count has doubled on the ill-fated Indian campaign. The scoreline indicates the team’s misery and atrocious performance. This is the lowest ebb Dhoni has faced till date.


As a captain Dhoni has seen almost all the possible highs. The World T20 2007, CB Series 2008, Asia Cup 2010, Number one ranking in Tests and the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 shall remain in his trophy cabinet forever. However, his true test as a leader starts now. He has shown good maturity in leading the Team from one success to the other and now comes the time when he has to lead them to resurrection. The true test of character and mettle comes in tough situations.


A dialogue from the movie Batman Begins goes as follows “Why do we fall, Bruce? So we learn to pick ourselves up.” The current scenario is going to test Dhoni’s character and whether or not he learns to pick the team up. Amidst all the highs, probably this was waiting to come as a man cannot experience success alone. Fate will throw in a blow or two which has to be dealt with purpose and strength.


Be it promoting himself in the World Cup Final or giving the ball to Joginder Sharma for the final over in the 2007 T20 World Cup final, Dhoni has shown guts. But now comes the time when he has to show strength as a leader and motivate his team to fight back from the dumps. The manner in which Dhoni will lead his team from now will define his leadership.


(Nishad Pai Vaidya, a 20-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.”)