Time to show leadership, not shun it: Dhoni
Kolkata, Dec 9: With back-to-back Test defeats to England, MS Dhoni, India’s most successful captain at home, finds himself in unchartered waters. But as has been his wont, the Indian captain has maintained his equanimity and pragmatism when spurting of emotions seems like an easy way out.
A classic example of the rage generated by adversity, are the loud voices calling for Dhoni’s removal from the helm. While the man himself leaves the decision to the five wise men, he feels that it would be cowardly of him to abandon the team when they need their leader the most.
“As a captain this is a challenge that has been thrown towards me,” Dhoni said after India surrendered their fortress of the Eden Gardens to England by seven wickets. “It’s always good to lead a side that’s doing well and in which everyone is performing. But that’s not the time when the team needs a leader.
“Leading a side is about holding the team together when they’re not doing well, backing youngsters and seniors alike and trying to take the team into the right direction. Right now the easiest thing for me would be to quit captaincy. But that’s running away from responsibility. Of course, the final decision will be made by the BCCI and the selectors but my responsibility right now is to prepare the team for the next Test,” Dhoni said.
The Indian skipper also made an attempt to silence those making a scapegoat out of coach Duncan Fletcher. “He has been doing everything that a coach is required to do,” Dhoni said. “He has excellent technical knowledge of batting and he guides the players well. But ultimately once you cross that rope you’re on your own in implementing what you’ve learnt and that’s where we’re lacking right now.
“We shouldn’t look for excuses and play the blame game and put it all on the coach. On a wicket like this, you have to score more runs,” Dhoni said, referring to India’s rare batting failures at home, in the last two Tests.
In fact, the captain put the onus of the Kolkata defeat on the top seven batsmen, who failed to utilise an almost perfect batting pitch.
“I think the batting order will have to take the responsibility. We need to score more runs on a wicket like this, which was very good to bat on. At least five of the top seven batsmen will have to score at the same time so that the bowlers have a par or an above par score to defend,” the captain opined.
Dhoni was pretty satisfied with his spinners’ efforts in the series thus far but wished for his pacers to match up to their English counterparts.
“Their fast bowlers bowled well, got more reverse swing than we did. More than the pace it was the bounce and the length that made the difference. They were constantly putting pressure on the batsmen.
“Their spinners played with the patience of the batsmen by bowling in the same area. Our spinners have done a very good job too but a bit more contribution from the fast bowlers would really help the team,” Dhoni said.
The seeming ineffectiveness of India’s pace attack has a lot to do with Zaheer Khan not being among wickets. There are suggestions that the aging Indian spearhead hasn’t been at his best in the last two Tests. But watching Zaheer bowl from the best seat in the stadium – behind the wickets – tells Dhoni a different story.
“He’s definitely fit and is doing everything to stay fit. Why is he not effective? Probably these batsmen are playing him better because from behind the wicket, it looks like he is bowling in the right areas. We have seen bowlers going through a wicket-less phase and maybe this is one such phase for him. He’s still bowling quite in the same way – swinging the ball both ways,” Dhoni said of his strike bowler.
India has always been a tough nut to crack for the visiting teams. England’s 2-1 dominance with one Test to go should come as a big blow to the team’s and Dhoni’s handsome home record. However, for the Indian captain the twin whitewashes in England and Australia were more painful.
“I think the England and Australia series was the lowest phase of my career because we weren’t able to compete there. Here we know what the problem areas are and we will be able to rectify them,” he said.
As he leads his beleaguered team towards redemption, the leader demands just one thing from his players – self belief.
“Some of the senior guys in the team are feeling the pressure because not so long ago there were performing with some legends, who are now gone. The youngsters want to perform because they want to cement their place in the side. This is a situation where everyone will feel a bit of pressure but it’s important to get rid of it.
“We have to back each other and more importantly every individual has to back himself. Very often we see that a player starts questioning himself before people question him. Self-belief is important,” the Indian captain urged.
Dhoni is right. Belief is the key to making the impossible possible. And saving a Test series at home is very much within Team India. So, for Dhoni and his men it’s over to Nagpur for the Test.