It takes a brave man to step up and own responsibility, and a leader to back his men when the chips are down. Not a mean task in today’s world where unrelenting scrutiny adds to the pressure if an individual is struggling to give his best.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni proved on Saturday that he was not going to let down some of his trusted colleagues on the basis of one bad show.
Former England skipper Mike Brearley was known to read the situation calmly and react positively. He would back his bowlers, and more often than not, get them to perform. Ian Botham blossomed during his tenure.
Dhoni may not be a Brearley, but is a keen believer in the Englishman’s principle of standing by his players in their times of distress.
“It’s always easy to say things after seeing the result. Who would have known that 30 runs would come? These things happen,” Dhoni said after the match, his composed demeanour in defending Ishant Sharma’s expensive over against Australia at Mohali revealing his views on selecting and dropping a player.
“You try to take the right decision. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t,”
It works to Dhoni’s favour that the National selectors too share his philosophy when discussing Ishant.
“When you are disappointed, it’s always better to give the individual a bit of time to think by himself. No one wants to bowl a bad over.
“The individual is more disappointed than anyone in the stadium or in the team. If you base everything on one or two games, the whole team will have to be changed,” said Dhoni.
Obviously Ishant sported a blank countenance when he was being clobbered by James Faulkner, who had earlier suffered at the hands of Dhoni. But the team management and the selectors were unwilling to discard Ishant, a gifted bowler desperately seeking direction in his most difficult phase.
“Some batsmen haven’t got runs, some bowlers haven’t done well. It would be unfair if you want to throw away bowlers from the playing XI after one or two games.
“It’s very important to persist with them and give them experience.
“They are part of the team because they are talented. People who are waiting can wait a little more.
“In India, once someone goes out of the side, people forget them and only talk about new people. I feel we should back players.
“Once a new guy comes in, you have the same cycle. I think there should be one principle we work on,” said Dhoni.
Few would dispute Dhoni on this.
The Indian captain did add, though, that the “bowlers need not be spoon-fed” at the international level.
“(Ishant) bowled well in the first few overs. We are talking about one over. The (other) eight overs, no one is talking about.
“When he gave us the wicket (of Aaron Finch at 82 for one), that was the time we really needed the wicket,” Dhoni said. “Overall, you have to see everything. Not one or two bad overs.
“If a batsman plays one bad shot, you can’t judge a batsman. If someone is going through a bad period, that’s when the team backs him.”
So have the selectors.
It is Dhoni’s strength as captain that he does not support the idea of chopping and changing a combination.
He firmly believes in giving a player that one more chance to redeem himself.
Having fought his way to the national team himself, Dhoni understands the need and importance of protecting and preserving a performer. He also backs his intuition — and that has been his forte — taking risks and owning up if the move backfires.
Brearley, in The Art of Captaincy, writes: “Over a series of games the captain needs to have some overall plan, however tentative.”
Even as Dhoni’s moves are subjected to some scathing analysis, it would be worth remembering what Greg Chappell has to say in his book Fierce Focus, “He was able to read the game as perceptively as the best leaders.
“The main reason they (India) got to No.1 in the Test rankings and won the World Cup is Mahendra Singh Dhoni.”