The 16th match of ICC T20 World Cup was a forgettable one. Aussies thrash India chasing 140 odd runs with 9 wickets and 5 overs to spare. An ultimate thrashing even a neutral viewer would like to forget. This match underlines the recent trend of whitewashes that India succumb to. Not only did they surrender to a whitewash in the England and Australian tours, India has also the habit of losing badly like the second one dayer against the hosts Sri Lanka. Why is it this happening to India, who were coveted with the highest trophy in World Cricket. Why can’t the Indians perform? The answer may lie in the captain’s attitude towards cricket.
Dhoni is without doubt the coolest cricketer ever to captain a national team. Statistically he’s the best Indian captain ever. He’s been praised for being as cool as a cucumber during crunch situations. Individually he has had tremendous success in the ODIs, ranked number uno in the batsmen list, one of the best finishers of the game. He’s had quite a bit of success in the test as well as one-day formats (Most of them at home, one might argue). However his nature of being dead cool has also spelled doom for the side. He is a street smart cricketer, something inherited from where he lives. His “Chalta hai” attitude, where he doesn’t take most things seriously, has affected how the team looks at the matches. Yes, one needs to enjoy the game to play well. But when you take things more lightly than required, things fall apart.
Take for instance his taking the game to the last over. Whenever India is chasing down a sizeable total, Dhoni more often than not takes the game to the last over. Initially he was being praised for this behaviour, some stating that Dhoni always has the game in control. I would say he was lucky he could win most matches despite this suicidal action. He has mellowed down his batting, from his blistering knocks of 140s and 180s, to the 50s he regularly gets taking India home in the last over. However he has started to pay the price for this unnecessary action, the best example being the only T20 match against Kiwis at Chennai. Even when the writing is on the wall, Dhoni continues to do this. “Chalta hai bhai”, I bet he would say.
Then there is his “realistic” captaincy. People regarded him as the one cricketer who can read the game situation the best. Yes, he did so, but that was in his in early days. Now though he has become adamant on that. You can see this “realistic” style of captaincy in his field placing. He can get defensive very quickly when a batsmen goes berserk. He’s known to side with players that only he knows why anybody would put them in the team in the first place (No offense Ravindran Jadeja, but there are better players than you). Due to this, Dhoni hasn’t been able to inspire the team when they needed him the most. The whitewash India faced at the hands of the English and the Aussies could have been avoided had India played with a positive frame of mind, attacked more. But I guess a part of the blame could go to BCCI for not having groomed the bowlers well for these tours.
Dhoni needs to rethink his strategy. He should be more proactive. He has all the ingredients to be one of the greatest captains in cricket. I admire his selfless attitude, letting the boys enjoy the adulation of winning some tournament. Many senior players have praised the atmosphere in the dressing room, terming as the best they have been in, after Dhoni became the captain. And his batting, though unorthodox, is very effective at dealing with any bowling attack in the world. Dhoni should put more faith in the young bowlers, give them an attacking field and make them bowl the lengths that can trouble the batsmen. But with his intentions to retire soon, we may never see him change this attitude.
The next world cup is a couple of years away. A lot of tours beckon the Indians which will test their mettle. Sure, our bowling attack is the weakest among the top five teams. Our batting is in muddy waters after the departure of Dravid and Laxman and age fast catching up with Sachin. But if one thing can change, it the cricketer at the helm of the the Indian team. India is better served if Dhoni can change his attitude and approach every game with a bit more aggression, bit more optimism. The future looks bright, with Virat Kohli almost a certainty to take over after Dhoni. Kohli being a far more aggressive player than Dhoni, reminds very much of the Ponting at his prime, both in his batting style and in spirit. The India would do good if the “Ponting of India” can rise at the right time. ∞