MS Dhoni The Test Captain has to go

Another overseas tour, another series defeat. Or let us just rephrase that a bit. Another overseas tour and another humiliating, embarrassing and crushing Test series annihilation. That is the Indian Test team story. A story, which Indian fans have been quite used to witnessing for quite some time now. In spite of that, the 3-1 series loss to England has come as a rude shock to Indian cricket. After India had surprisingly won the second Test match at Lord’s, many had expected them to show some more fire and go on to win the series. However, the tame manner in which the entire team capitulated was shocking to say the least.

While a lot of introspection and analysis is now being done on the Indian team’s performance, the one thing which is standing out in the mess is captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s future. It is true that since the time Dhoni took up the reigns of the Indian team, he has brought the country several laurels. However, his record as a Test captain leaves a lot to be desired and his performance in England has further put a massive question mark on his leadership abilities in the longer format of the game.

There was a time, not too long ago, when Dhoni was known as ‘Captain Cool’. However, over the last few years, especially as was witnessed in this series, chinks have started to appear in his cool demeanor. Dhoni has increasingly started to become sarcastic and angry in his post-match interviews. What has become alarming is that instead of accepting his faults and trying to find a solution, Dhoni resorts to snide comments and laughs off pertinent questions. Clearly, this is not the ideal way the captain of a national team should be behaving. Especially one who is continuously losing Test matches in disgraceful ways. It is perhaps time now, for Dhoni, the Test captain, to move away. Let us now look at the reasons to support this argument.

LOOKS QUITE JADED AND UNINSPIRING

Dhoni clearly is not made out for the longer haul of cricket; especially when it is in overseas tours. If it is a four or five match series, then Dhoni tends to become quite tired and exhausted as a captain. True that he is one of the fittest people in cricket, but leading a side in Test cricket is an entirely different ball game altogether. When the Test series against England began, Dhoni was his usual smiling and composed self. However, as it progressed and reached the third Test, Dhoni began to slowly lose the plot. His eyes seemed droopy and he looked battle-worn. By the time India was playing the last Test, it seemed as if Dhoni just did not care and wanted the misery to end. His jaded looks did nothing to inspire the team to push themselves. And that, unfortunately, has been the story for far too long with Dhoni.

TEAM SELECTIONS ARE BAFFLING

The hallmark of a good captain is his astute team selection. With Dhoni, things seem to be quite the opposite. His team selections in Test matches border on the bizarre, confusing and baffling. Persisting with part-timer Ravindra Jadeja in Test matches and ignoring frontline spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, playing Stuart Binny instead of a pure batsman or bowler and including rookie Pankaj Singh ahead of Varun Aaron (who went on to impress later) are some of his glaring selection errors that could be seen in this Test series. Dhoni has been known to make such strange decisions on previous tours as well which have resulted in India’s chances of doing well eventually.

CONFUSING FIELD SETTINGS AND BOWLING CHANGES

If there is one thing that Dhoni really lacks behind as a Test captain, it is his field settings. To continuously keeping his favourite leg-slip position, which never really comes of use, to not keeping a third-man when boundaries keep getting hit there, to placing a short fine-leg when the situation never demands it, Dhoni does it all. To top that, Dhoni’s field settings in overseas Test matches, are hardly ever attacking; even if his team has the upper hand. He will keep the mandatory two slips for most of the time and even if the situation asks for it, he never goes for a third or fourth slip. His placement of fielders too in pertinent positions is not very smart. The most glaring example of his baffling field settings can perhaps be best summarized in the way he stood up behind the wickets to spinner Ravindra Jadeja in the last day of the second Test match at Lord’s against England. It left most experts and even ex-players scratching their heads and none had the answer to this weird position. Another point worth noting is Dhoni’s bowling changes which are often times absurd, ridiculous and simply preposterous. When a bowler is doing well, Dhoni suddenly takes him off when he can be persisted with for a bit more. In the current series against England, the Indian captain often started new sessions with Ravindra Jadeja and even Stuart Binny when he had the better option of Bhuvaneshwar Kumar or Varun Aaron. His persistent usage of Pankaj Singh before Varun Aaron too was quite baffling in the fourth Test match against England. It seemed that either Dhoni had run out of ideas or was simply doing things to prove people wrong. As many had questioned the selection of Jadeja, Binny and Pankaj; Dhoni perhaps was determined to use these players more so that they could prove him right and the ones who had questioned him would then be proved wrong.

LETS GAME DRIFT

As was seen in this series and has been seen in several previous occasions, Dhoni has the nagging tendency of letting games drift when things aren’t going his way. Instead of taking the game by the scruff of the neck and enforcing some changes, Dhoni has the habit of getting laidback and hoping that the batsmen would commit some errors. This particular habit of his has been oft-repeated and has cost India dear on more occasions than one. When you have captains like Michael Clarke who make smart bowling changes, making early declarations to enforce a result and regularly coming up to the bowlers to pump them up, Dhoni is the exact opposite of all these traits in Test matches. Clearly, he does not observe the better captains in world cricket and try and learn the tricks of the trade from them.

TACTICS MORE SUITED FOR ODIS

There is no question of Dhoni’s credibility as a captain in the shorter format of the game. It is the format which is tailor made for him and it is where he feels very relaxed and sharp. However, it seems Dhoni doesn’t seem to revel or enjoy himself in the Test matches as a captain. To captain the side in tiring circumstances session after session, day after day is an arduous task. And even though he may not like to hear this, Dhoni’s tactics and modus operandi looks more befitting for ODI matches.

DHONI AS AN OVERSEAS CAPTAIN IN NUMBERS

Dhoni has been the captain of the national Test team for close to six years now and his records aren’t too pleasing to the eye. He now holds the dubious record of most Test losses as an Indian captain in overseas matches; which currently stands at 11. With India set to tour Australia later in the year for a four Test match series, the numbers look set to be increasing. Dhoni’s win percentage, after captaining India to a record 58 Test matches, currently stands at 46.55; with most of the victories having come on Indian soil. He is the captain who had overseen his team to appalling losses of 0-4 each in England and Australia back in 2011. He then also embarrassingly lost a Test series 2-1 to England in his own country in 2012. And to add to his tally, the current humiliation has been piled up. Clearly, some rampant changes are required to resurrect the Indian Test team and we have to start from the top.

LOOKING AHEAD

Mahendra Singh Dhoni has to be relived of captaining the Test side with immediate effect. This move can make a big difference in the future, if taken without any further ado, to both Team India and Dhoni himself. There is no denying that Dhoni has been a great servant of Indian cricket and in these dire times, India needs him more than ever. Perhaps when the burden of captaincy is removed from his shoulders, he can concentrate more on his wicket-keepingwhich has been found wanting of late - and also improve his batting. Dhoni will be an asset to any side he plays for and perhaps reliving him off his captaincy duties would regenerate him and let him perform at his best.

Now this bring us to the most important question. If not Dhoni, then who? The answer to that would be the players who are regulars in the Test team and have been performing decently well for some time. The obvious people who would fit these criteria would be Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara. Although, their performance in the current series against England was quite disappointing; that cannot be taken into account for their future. They are very good batsmen and are sure to come back strongly very soon. Both have been in the Test side for some time now and have had enough grooming. Either of the two hence can and should be given the mantle to lead India in Tests and see how they take that from there. The West Indies would be coming to India for a three-Test series in October this year. It would do good to make either Kohli or Pujara have a go at Test captaincy in that tour. We can see how they perform and then things can be taken forward from there.

The Indian Test team currently needs a young and vibrant approach to lift up its sagging fortunes. Some changes are imminent and the change in captaincy seems to be the most prudent one. It may not bring us immediate results as our team is one in transition. However, with proper guidance and positive approach, Team India can be revived. Hence, whether some people like it or not, for the future of Indian Test cricket, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the captain, has to go.


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