While a lot of introspection and analysis is now being done on the Indian team’s performance, the one thing which is standing out in the mess is captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s future. It is true that since the time that Dhoni took up the reigns of the Indian team, he has brought the country several laurels. However, his record as a Test captain leaves a lot to be desired and his performance in England has further put a massive question mark on his leadership abilities in the longer format of the game.
There was a time, not too long ago, when Dhoni was known as ‘Captain Cool’. However, over the last few years, especially as was witnessed in this series, chinks have started to appear in his cool demeanor. Dhoni has increasingly started to become sarcastic and angry in his post-match interviews. What has become alarming is that instead of accepting his faults and trying to find a solution, Dhoni resorts to snide comments and laughs off pertinent questions. Clearly, this is not the ideal way the captain of national team should be behaving. Especially one who is continuously losing Test matches in disgraceful ways.
It is perhaps time now, for Dhoni, the Test captain, to move away. Let us now look the reasons to support this argument.
Looks quite jaded and uninspiring
Dhoni clearly is not made out for the longer haul of cricket; especially when it is in overseas tours. If it is a four or five match series, then Dhoni tends to become quite tired and exhausted as a captain. True that he is one of the fittest people in cricket, but leading a side in Test cricket is an entirely different ball game altogether. When the Test series against England began, Dhoni was his usual smiling and composed self. However, as it progressed and reached the third Test, Dhoni began to slowly lose the plot. His eyes seemed droopy and he looked battle-worn. By the time India was playing the last Test, it seemed as if Dhoni just did not care and wanted the misery to end. His jaded looks did nothing to inspire the team to push themselves. And that, unfortunately, has been the story for far too long with Dhoni.
Team selections are baffling
The hallmark of a good captain is his astute team selection. With Dhoni, things seem to be the quite the opposite. His team selections in Test matches border on the bizarre, confusing and baffling. Persisting with part-timer Ravindra Jadeja in Test matches and ignoring frontline spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, playing Stuart Binny instead of a pure batsman or bowler and including rookie Pankaj Singh ahead of Varun Aaron (who went on to impress later) are some of his glaring selection errors that could be seen in this Test series. Dhoni has been known to make such strange decisions on previous tours as well which have resulted in India’s chances of doing well eventually.
Confusing field settings and bowling changes
If there is one thing that Dhoni really lacks behind as a Test captain it is his field settings. To continuously keeping his favourite leg-slip position, which never really comes of use, to not keeping a third-man when boundaries keep getting hit there, to placing a short fine-leg when the situation never demands it, Dhoni does it all. To top that, Dhoni’s field settings in overseas Test matches, are hardly ever attacking; even if his team has the upper hand. He will keep the mandatory two slips for most of the time and even if the situation asks for it, he never goes for a third or fourth slip. His placement of fielders too in pertinent positions is not very smart. The most glaring example of his baffling field settings can perhaps be best summarized in the way he stood up behind the wickets to spinner Ravindra Jadeja in the last day of the second Test match at Lord’s against England. It left most experts and even ex-players scratching their heads and none had the answer to this weird position.
Tactics more suited for ODIs
There is no question of Dhoni’s credibility as a captain in the shorter format of the game. It is the format which is tailor made for him and it is where he feels very relaxed and sharp. However, it seems Dhoni doesn’t seem to revel or enjoy himself in the Test matches as a captain. To captain the side in tiring circumstances session after session, day after day is an arduous task. And even though he may not like to hear this, Dhoni’s tactics and modus operandi looks more befitting for Test matches.
Dhoni as an overseas captain in numbers
Dhoni has been the captain of the national Test team for close to six years now and his records aren’t too pleasing to the eye. He now holds the dubious record of most Test losses as an Indian captain in overseas matches; which currently stands at 11. With India set to tour Australia later in the year for a four Test match series, the numbers look set to be increasing. Dhoni’s win percentage, after captaining India to a record 58 Test matches, currently stands at 46.55; with most of the victories having come on Indian soil. He is the captain who had overseen his team to appalling losses of 0-4 each in England and Australia back in 2011. He then also embarrassingly lost a Test series 2-1 to England in his own country in 2012. And to add to his tally, the current humiliation has been piled up. Clearly, some rampant changes are required to resurrect the Indian Test team and we have to start at the top.
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