A major perk of becoming India’s cricket captain is becoming the most popular youth icon in the country. However, once challenging times arrive, the captain can quickly become very distracted. This happened to even someone as seasoned as Rahul Dravid, who graciously stepped down towards the end of 2007.
His long hair and love for fast bikes had already built his image, but when MS Dhoni took charge of all three teams the following year, he had everything going for him. The destructive batsman and steady wicketkeeper was praised by his seniors for his maturity. After his victory in his maiden assignment in the 2007 World Twenty20, his leadership was hailed as being intuitive.
The way he promoted himself up the batting order in the World Cup, and how, after hitting the winning six, he let Mumbai’s favourite son — Sachin Tendulkar — soak in the adulation only reinforced that image.
But events since then have raised questions about Dhoni’s captaincy and whether he is trying to enter a territory he should not and, instead, worry about the results. Demanding rank turners for the series against England is the latest.
He is not the first, and is unlikely to be the last, captain to seek a ‘home advantage’ but by openly focusing on the track, instead of looking to get the best out of his eleven, he has put himself and the team under extra pressure. When India lost to Australia at the same Wankhede 11 years ago, also by ten wickets, they didn’t crumble only against spin. Pace played an important role as well. And there have been three previous instances of 19 Indian wickets falling to spin.
India is fifth in the International Cricket Council (ICC) rankings, and England second, for a reason. But Dhoni appears to have the full backing of a cricket board which did not demonstrate it had chalked out a roadmap following the series routs in England and Australia or think it important to review the captaincy. Few captains would have survived such defeats
With England proving smarter than anticipated, and the Australia tour not far away, the least Dhoni can do is focus on re-organising the side.