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Dhoni lands in hostile territory

cricket Updated: Aug 03, 2011 01:53 IST
Sanjjeev K Samyal
Sanjjeev K Samyal
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

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"I always look at my opposite number and it is one of my goals in every series to be better than my counterpart. I will be looking to do the same this time. Dhoni is a quality player, one of the best in business, and it will be very satisfying if I can do better," Matt Prior had said at the start of the series.

After two games, it is safe to say that the England keeper has won his personal battle hands down. The numbers speak for themselves. Prior starred at Lord's with 71 and 103 not out, and scored 1 and 73 at Nottingham, averaging 82 plus with a strike rate of 89.53. Dhoni averages 12.25 after four innings with a highest score of 28.

Faltering Captain
At the start of the series, England had declared their main target would be Dhoni. He has been Captain Cool, the man who couldn't do anything wrong, a double World Cup champion, the man for the crisis. It will be an understatement that Dhoni's lack of success has hurt India.

England have been surprised at the ease with which they have been able to knock over the India captain. No wonder, with the captain down, his ship is sinking. An example of how their skipper's below-par show has hurt India here was seen in the first innings at Trent Bridge. Having bundled out England for 221, he walked in to bat at 267 for five; even a cameo would have tilted the game in favour of the visitors. But Dhoni played a loose shot to trigger a procession which saw India lose the last five wickets for 15 runs.http://www.hindustantimes.com/images/HTPopups/030811/03_08_11-metro19.jpg

It was a decisive phase in the game. England never allowed India back into the game after that. The series has slipped out of their hands, and if India lose their No 1 ranking, Dhoni might look back at this second day's moment with regret.

Poor glovework
His shoddy work behind the stumps is a giveaway that he's not at his best. The lack of confidence is seen in the way he's fumbling with his collections and hesitating to go for the catches. Clearly, he has yet to adapt to the English conditions where the ball wobbles more, changes direction mid-air and dips suddenly. Also, quite unlike the captain charismatic we have known, he has allowed the games to meander. The focus is just not as sharp. The skipper admitted he was concerned about his form, but was positive: "My form is a bit of a concern but till your preparation is right, you don't have to worry."

After his stunning innings in the World Cup final, he was expected to ride on the confidence. It had come in the midst of another dismal run. Now, that looks more a case of a one-off blinder. It is the first time since he took over the reins that India have lost two Tests in a row. He has not lost a series as captain. The way his team have shaped up here, India's days as the No 1 side look numbered.

"… it's a tough place to score runs. The situation has been tough but that's what you look forward to as an international player," he said on Monday. It's the most trying period of his glittering career. India's fortunes will depend on how he responds to this challenge.