Dhoni backs comeback man Bhajji
The most unique aspect of MS Dhoni’s personality is his apparent indifference to both success and failure. After every match the Indian captain’s face is a sea of serenity, irrespective of the result. In a country where cricket evokes passion and emotion from even the most tranquil souls, Dhoni maintains his equanimity day in and day out.
For instance, immediately after India drubbed Australia by an innings and 135 runs in the Hyderabad Test to take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series, Dhoni was informed that he had overtaken Sourav Ganguly as the most successful Indian captain, with 22 Test wins under his belt. The skipper’s nonchalant reply to that was, “These are just numbers. No one in the dressing room is talking about this.”
Not so long ago, Dhoni fought fire as his team was caught in a labyrinth of defeats – the 0-4 white-washes in Australia and England, followed by the 1-2 humiliation at home against England. Now, after two wins, he’s back to being the toast of the nation. The Indian captain kept his cool then and he’s doing the same now.
"That's what cricket is all about," he mused. “You have to be at your best all the time. Against England, we were not at our best. We were not scoring enough runs; we were not putting huge totals on the board for our bowlers to be aggressive. All these things play a crucial part.
“You can't just rely on your batting or bowling, as a unit you have to do well. Once you score runs, automatically you will see the bowlers doing well. It works the other way as well. If the bowlers are bowling well, it creeps into your batting also. We are playing well at the moment. Also, the fifth-bowler strategy is really working for us," he said.
Reminiscing the tough questions he encountered about India not being good travellers during India’s disastrous twin tours of Australia and England last year, Dhoni said that each team is supposed to be better at home than it is overseas.
"The question we often get asked when we go to England or Australia is: ‘Why don't you play on sporting wickets back home in India?' It's the same for everyone, you have to realise you play 70 or 80 percent of your matches in your home conditions. You have to be good there. As I always say, once you go abroad, the conditions are totally different and that's a challenge. That's what improves our Test cricket over a period of time,” Dhoni said, encouraging countries to stick to the wickets and conditions favourable for the home teams.
“The sides that have players who have toured the subcontinent, or our players who have played in other countries, they have been able to perform quite consistently. I feel it's still a challenge, that's what is special about Test cricket. You go abroad, you have different conditions, you come to the subcontinent, the wicket becomes slow and low. If everything becomes the same, Test cricket won't be challenging."
The Indian captain also expressed pleasure at the wicket dished out at Hyderabad. "There was some bounce for the pacers with the new ball, and later, since it's a subcontinental wicket, there will be reverse swing with the older ball. It was slightly different for the spinners, in the sense they started getting turn when the ball turned soft. In India, generally, you bowl spinners with the new ball so that they get more turn, but here it was slightly different. Maybe it took us a little time to realise that, but, overall, it was a good wicket."
After the success of India’s spinners, Dhoni was asked about his take on Harbhajan Singh, who is making a comeback in the team after a year of poor form, and the reason to choose him over Pragyan Ojha despite the latter’s recent exploits.
"What's important is to realise how he has been performing since his comeback. Once the big players who are left out make a comeback trying to cement their place, the pressure on them is much more compared to a new guy who has come in and is trying to make place in the side. The reason is there will be expectations from him for the amount of wickets he has taken.
"In his last three Test matches, he has shown improvement. He played against England and people weren't happy. I could also not give him the amount of overs I would have liked to. That's the case with three spinners. Often, one of them will be slightly under-utilised. And then the 100th Test match came and that pressure was always there on him. What's important is how he has overcome that. I felt he bowled well in the second innings in Chennai and over here in this game, he has shown improvement. He is bowling in one area, which is very important. You will have one lead spinner, but when it comes to the second spinner, you may have to choose – something like horses for courses. The idea is, with the Australians having lots of left-handers, having two off-spinners helps."
Having been in Michael Clarke’s shoes a year back, Dhoni was asked if he had any advice for the struggling Australian captain. He said that Clarke needs to handle his boys with composure.
"I won't like to poke my nose, but I would just like to say that screaming [at his players] won't really help," he said. "You need to respect your opponents, whatever be the situation. And you don't give Australians advice as they are very competitive and they can come back strongly in the series. I always look at the positives. After this series, they will have a pool of players who have come to the subcontinent and the second time they play here or in Sri Lanka or Pakistan or Bangladesh, they will be better equipped to handle the conditions. It's a win-win situation for them; it's just that they have to be a bit patient."