Clear conflict of ideas between the Board and the captain
Calcutta is Kolkata now but some things remain the same. Just as some things remain the same in Indian cricket, regardless of who sits at the helm.
The laidback city that it is, Kolkata retains the old world charm, the tram highlighting the slow pace of life. Even as an assortment of vehicles manoeuvre aggressively in a noisy but not always fast race, the tram stays on a predictable course. It has no choice actually. Indian cricket resembles the tram, refusing to keep pace with times, looking to relive the era when its spinners wove magic with the ball.
There is clear conflict of ideas between the Board and the captain. The Board wants sporting pitches that assist seam, spin and bounce. The team captain emphasises “rank turner” is the mantra to tame the English. The debate rages.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni has become adamant. He insists on invoking the home advantage of making spinner-friendly pitches. There is nothing wrong in playing to your advantage. But the problem here lies in the home team not being able to exploit the home advantage. Mumbai became an embarrassment and has led to a piquant situation. The pitch has become the centre of attention as the cricket caravan arrives at this venue of many exciting cricket contests.
This is a daunting situation for Indian cricket. The team lies wounded, the captain is struggling and a stalwart has run into the worst phase of his form.
The void created by the exit of Rahul Dravid and V.V.S. Laxman looks more pronounced now and Dhoni obviously is feeling the heat.
Criticism was a trickle some time ago but assumed a cascading form after the disastrous tours to England and Australia and the early exit from the last T20 World Cup.
“Dhoni needs to justify his selection, isn’t it?” felt Bishan Singh Bedi, who can be brutally honest in his assessment.
Dhoni has thus far enjoyed unstinted support from his colleagues and selectors but it is obvious the job will be under scrutiny in the remaining two Tests against England.
A series loss will not enhance Dhoni’s ‘Mr. Cool’ reputation even as then harried Indian captain is innately confident of arresting the deteriorating image of his team.
Never known for his skills with the wicket-keeping gloves, Dhoni was considered a “safe” man behind the stumps. He would make up for his keeping lapses with some sterling show with the bat.
Inconsistency has, however, added to his woes and Dhoni’s methods of dismissals have often shown him in poor light.
A match-winner in his early international years, he has not been at his best with the bat in recent times.
The pressure of having failed to motivate the team has left Dhoni in a desperate state and also made him unpopular with many former stars, not to forget the Eden Gardens curator Probir Mukherjee.
His diktat to have rank turners only confirms the state of Indian cricket. Some things just don’t change.