It's not easy being MS Dhoni these days. Whatever decisions he takes, it comes immediately under the scanner, is discussed threadbare and is then lobbed across with the familiar refrain - is it time to replace him as skipper.
Why did he drop or rest R Ashwin from the first T20
game against Pakistan? The question started doing the rounds as soon the playing XI was announced on Tuesday, and gained momentum after Pakistan captain Mohammad Hafeez attributed their five-wicket win to the absence of world-class spinners in the Indian XI.
Ashwin's omission left India playing just three specialist bowlers - all pacers. It was not a smart move, especially considering that Pakistan fielded five regular bowlers, despite the fact that the off-spinner is enduring a pretty rough patch. "He's been our main bowler but he has been going for runs once the field opens up… we wanted give Jadeja a go," said Dhoni.
The problem, however, wasn't in dropping the out-of-sorts Ashwin, but in giving Jadeja a 'go-ahead'. While the left-arm spinner is definitely not a better bowler than Ashwin, it's a valid question to ask whether he is even a better batsman than the off-spinner. "He's a very predictable bowler as he lacks variation. He could at best be a restrictive bowler in the longer formats, but not in T20s. Here, he would be an easy target for batsmen," Sunil Gavaskar told a TV channel.
And with him being of little value as a bowler, he can't be of much use as a batsman coming in at number eight. Can't the top seven batsmen of the supposedly strong batting line-up be trusted to last 20 overs? If seven can't, then even eighth wouldn't, as, drawing from what Hafeez said the other day, matches can't be won merely on the basis of batting; bowlers are needed too.
Given how well pacers did in these conditions, an extra medium pacer could have turned the match in India's favour.
And that Dhoni threw the ball to Virat Kohli for two overs showed India did miss that extra fourth seamer. The off-shoot of going in with just three specialist bowlers was that all of them had exhausted their quota of overs before the match-deciding final over, which was bowled by Jadeja.
It could be asked why the skipper exhausted the four overs of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, India's best bowler of the day, in one go. This could be because the young bowler threatened to pick more wickets, and at his pace, would have been more effective bowling with the new ball, but one more might have well tilted the game in India's favour.
Although it was the pathetic batting that let India down, considering the role pressure plays when the two teams square up, a more balanced final XI could have made the difference.