January 31, 2012

Our sub-continental culture of captain-bashing is detrimental to the growth of cricket. MSD remains India’s only leader.

The entire hullabaloo around MS Dhoni’s captaincy is extremely ill-timed. Captain-bashing is a favourite pastime of cricket pundits in the Indian sub-continent and the media just loves it. Ahead of the T20s versus Australia and the one-day series that follows, I believe Dhoni is the best man to lead India and will remain so in the immediate future.

I read a website report in one of the leading Indian dailies that Virender Sehwag will replace Dhoni as skipper. The report quotes ‘sources’ in the BCCI. I am not sure about the credibility of these ‘sources’. In recent times, BCCI’s planning has reflected poorly on India’s overseas performances. So, it would be unfair to make Dhoni a scapegoat.

There are two names – Sehwag and Virat Kohli — doing the rounds as ‘next’ captains. In my book, none of them qualify for the job. Sehwag was very unimpressive when he led the Indian team at Adelaide and Kohli is a kid who has just begun his career. He can wait for another five years.

I had expected better body language from Sehwag and his team during the Adelaide Test, but I was disappointed. India’s cold demeanour has been an issue in both England and Australia. The lack of communication has been palpable and that reflected on the field.

This ‘I give-a-damn’ attitude is counter-productive when the chips are down. What did Sehwag do to salvage India’s pride at Adelaide? I sometimes see streaks of Shahid Afridi in Sehwag. That dreadful propensity to self-destruct! Dhoni may not have done enough as skipper, but two bad series does not mean he should be derided and kicked out. Does the BCCI really have an option?

There is still a lot to play for in Australia. With Ravindra Jadeja, Suresh Raina and Praveen Kumar coming in, India are a solid ODI and T20 team. I think India have the right mix to give high-flying Australia a run for their money and we shall see a ‘new’ India in the first T20 at Sydney on Wednesday.

In the three-nation ODI series, I don’t see Sri Lanka making a huge impact. Mahela Jayawardene will concentrate on team rebuilding after the Lankans struggled in South Africa. Australia, of course, will have their tails up largely because their pacers are in great form. When you have a troika of pacers, each clocking 140 kmph regularly, a captain is always at a great advantage.

India’s bowling remains a concern. Ishant Sharma has been the biggest disappointment. He has talked about the ‘luck factor’. All that is just a lame excuse. After playing 45 Test matches, Ishant has not learnt to take responsibility.

When a quick bowler can’t make an impact on a Perth or MCG wicket, he never will. First things first, he must first learn to bowl on one side of the wicket.

Self-belief will be crucial going forward in the remainder of the Australian tour. India must not tamper with their batting order. Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir must open the innings because they already have a ‘feel’ of the conditions.

The more India back themselves, the better they will play. It’s a brand new chapter and India must demonstrate the body language of a world champion. Hope Dhoni shows the way with his young brigade.

Courtesy: ESPNSTAR

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