Mahendra Singh Dhoni, regarded as the man with the midas touch, is feeling the heat for the first time in his otherwise fabled spell as captain of the Indian team.
Dhoni and the boys came to Champions Trophy with six successive one-day series’ wins, now seriously needs to reassess his leadership skills after India cut a sorry figure in two elite ICC events this year—the Twenty20 World Cup in England and the on-going Champions Trophy in South Africa.
India’s poor showing in the Twenty20 World Cup was attributed to batsmen’s failure against short-pitched balls and now after the Champions Trophy debacle, the blame has been put on bowlers. But somewhere in between, it’s been the passivity in Dhoni’s captaincy which has escaped the radar of scrutiny.
Legendary Pakistan pacer Wasim Akram has expressed concerns that young Indian fast bowlers start around the 140kmph mark and within a year slip down to 120s and 130s.
Akram reveals that his skipper Imran Khan always wanted him to bowl fast and not to worry about line and length.
But it seems Dhoni differs on the topic as a day before their last group league match against West Indies, he told reporters, “It’s not about bowling 140 or 145-plus. At the end of the day, you have to bowl the right line and length.”
Dhoni cited the example of South African fast bowlers, who despite their speed were taken to the cleaners by opposition batsmen on the bland Centurion pitches.
But only Wayne Parnell can be cited as an example as he is young, wet behind his ears, and can lose his bearing.
Someone like Dale Steyn still sends a chill down the spine of rival batsmen. His economy rate is a mere 4.78 from three matches and has picked up six wickets.
Is Dhoni’s flair for captaincy now becoming a victim of pragmatism? His approach to batting would certainly suggest so. Instead of the flamboyant and rampaging presence at the crease, he now builds his innings in singles and he himself acknowledged it during the Twenty20 World Cup.
The India skipper let Pakistan off the hook by bringing in his part-time bowlers rather than go for all out attack with Harbhajan Singh when Pakistan were on the ropes at 65 for 3. The result, Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Yousuf soon found their bearing and posted a 206-run fourth wicket stand to pile up the big score.
Akram was critical that Dhoni never had a word with Harbhajan when the off-spinner kept spearing it down the middle and leg-stump. He felt the body language of the Indians and Dhoni, in particular, left a lot to be desired.
This season is full of ODIs and even the 2011 World Cup is not far away. It’s time for bold experiments and Team India needs a leader who used to seize the bull by the horns and not somebody who presently looks to be just safe and pragmatic.