Removing Dhoni from captaincy: typical knee jerk reactive response!

Posted: January 29, 2012 in Uncategorized
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So the TOI reports in a Sunday Times page one headline story that Dhoni will be replaced as captain of the Indian test team, by Sehwag.

And while this is not official news, TOI has been able to get teams and decisions of this kind, right, more times than not. And if they have put it on page one headline, they probably have it confirmed. And when the news actually breaks, they will tom-tom it saying, “we told you first”.

That apart, this post is not about TOI, but about the India team, and the captaincy issue in particular.

So what prompts this thought of removing Dhoni? I guess, the recent performances against England and Australia.

But really, is the captain responsible for this?

The averages of India’s top batsmen, across the Australia and England series put together, read like this:

Gambhir 21, Sehwag 20, Laxman 21, Sachin 35, Dravid 47.

The bowling averages were only worse.

With such performances, what is the captain supposed to do? Can he create miracles in spite of the batters and bowlers not doing their thing?

It was not too long back that Dhoni’s captaincy was being analysed, not just amongst sports analysts and enthusiasts, but also in the business papers and in management schools. Unlike form, the innate understanding of the game, the shrewdness on the field, the leadership skills, are not something that just come and go. It is still the same Dhoni. I do not see an iota of arrogance also coming in to the person. He is the same one today, that allowed the team and Sachin to be serenaded after the World Cup win, rather than hog the limelight, as a captain. What has changed is the performance of his team!

Sure, when things are going wrong, and in desperation, the captain tries different things, some of those could also go wrong. But that is hardly the reason for the dismal end performances.

It will be a disastrous decision to make him the fall guy at this time, and also to bring on Sehwag instead. Dhoni remains the best captain for India today, and Sehwag, with his temperamental approach to the game, is just not captaincy material. So both the choices – the removal and the replacement – are wrong.

Captains are chosen with thought, and then ideally, they are given long runs. In Australia, we remember te Border era, Steve Waugh era, Mark Taylor era, Ponting era, and now the Clarke era has started. In perhaps the same period, India (at least earlier) had it’s musical chairs approach. Kapil Dev, Gavaskar, Shashtri, Azhar, Srikanth, Dravid, Ganguly, Sachin, Kumble..have all had their stints. And not necessarily continuous runs, but a musical chair approach, in fact!

I am sure that does not serve the team well. It was a refreshing change to have been seeing the stint of Dhoni for last few years. And he delivered as captain. These two series in England and Australia have been serious aberrations in terms of a collective loss of form, or inability, and hence the results as we see them.

If there IS a plan to resurrect, the need is to go to the fundamentals. Pick a batch of promising youngsters, perhaps a group of about 20, and work with them. Give them the confidence of being India’s future, give them opportunities. Continue to lose some more, while these youngsters learn their ropes. And THEN, you are ready. To take on the world again.

Who better to work with such a young pack of budding cricketers than Dhoni? He is the one who has given confidence to many youngsters, given them responsibility at crucial phases, and they have delivered for him. Give an honorable exit to the seniors, and be a little ruthless about it, sentiment apart.

And build from grounds-up.

That to me, is a way out. Not just to roll the captain’s head, and keep everything else much the same!

But I don’t know. With Srikanth at the helm of affairs in the selection committee, I don’t see much hope, in terms of a long term strategy. It will be a sad day for Indian cricket, to see Dhoni removed and Sehwag being brought in as captain of the test team. And have the merry-go-round play out again.

Yeah, sad…

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