India’s defeat in the ODI series in Bangladesh — the team done in by rookie pacer Mustafizur Rahman, no less — betrays a worrying lack of focus against a team which is rapidly growing in confidence. Bangladesh shook India in the World Cup quarterfinal loss — they still blame a controversial no ball which reprieved Rohit Sharma — and swept a series against Pakistan on returning home. Neutral fans might applaud Bangladesh’s coming of age, but India have looked a house unsettled. India’s batsmen were hardly proactive. While Rahman stood out, they did little to put him off his stride, or take on the spin of Hossain or Shakib al Hasan. MS Dhoni’s captaincy hasn’t helped. Praised for his proactive ODI leadership, he didn’t win admirers by dropping Ajinkya Rahane in the second game.
But the concerns are far more serious than the embarrassment of the first series loss to Bangladesh. Dhoni’s post-match media comments on Sunday that he won’t mind stepping down as skipper and his effectively taking a jibe at the powers-that-be for Duncan Fletcher’s unceremonious departure as coach indicate disquiet in the camp. Ravi Shastri continuing as team director — he is likely to be named coach also — is seen more as a move to empower Virat Kohli, the new Test skipper.
Dhoni’s position as once the world’s most influential cricketer has eroded with the change of guard at the BCCI. Controversies surrounding his IPL team Chennai Super Kings and his supposed closeness to former BCCI president N Srinivasan have only hurt the World Cup-winning captain’s standing. Although Dhoni insists he enjoys the game and won’t mind staying on as a player, it is obvious that he is feeling the blues, and his comments seem to betray his uncertainties. A former national selector recently revealed that a decision to axe Dhoni as skipper in 2012 was vetoed by Srinivasan as BCCI president. Such revelations can’t help. The elbowing of Rahman in the first ODI also was very unlike Dhoni. With his voice no longer as influential in the BCCI corridors as it used to be, the situation suggests the awkwardness, which accompanies change. Thus, finding calm should be the priority for the team management and board bosses.