Chennai Super Kings'skipper MS Dhoni greets Trinidad Tobago players before their Champions league T20-2011 match in Chennai.
The Chennai Super Kings suffered another defeat, this time to the unfancied Trinidad and Tobago. They have not been the team one is used to seeing in the T20 format. Obviously, there is talk and articles are being written on what's happened to Dhoni. Has he lost the Midas touch? Or has his game deserted him?
It would be premature to seek answers. Dhoni has had a tough series in England. I believe the real test of an Indian captain is when he is leading the side overseas. It doesn't mean that Dhoni is not a good captain. A captain is as good as his team and MSD needs to get his team right quickly, especially the bowling.
When I say that the captain is as good as his team, I am very clear about it. Divide Ricky Ponting's Test captaincy into two halves - one when he was leading the side with Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne, Justin Langer, Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden in the ranks and the other when all these champions had retired. The results were in stark contrast. As captain, Dhoni's greatest challenge will be to create a new team to continue his success.
I am not surprised by CSK's results. Chennai was always a good cricketing surface with bounce, which allowed stroke-play. But it's not the same in the last two seasons. It's a slow, sluggish wicket, where if the fingers are rolled over, both by seamers and spinners, shot-making becomes difficult. Dhoni's 7 runs off 22 balls suggest that. Even in his worst form, Dhoni will score quicker than this, but the slowness of the track hasn't allowed CSK that liberty right down the order.
CSK have been a success story so far, but I get the feeling that they are being led by a physically and mentally tired MSD. That is bound to happen, as he is human. Dhoni has been playing non-stop cricket.
Not just that, he is captain in all formats of the game. To top it all, he is the wicketkeeper, so, for him, the workload never seems to end. This is why he had asked for a break before the selection of the squad for the five ODIs against England. That he has not been granted rest is because of injuries to key players, which has resulted in many new faces in the squad.
The selectors have rightly realised that MSD's presence as one-day batsman is important and hence picked him, but a stage will come when they will have to grant him leave.
The West Indies series could be the ideal time to give him a break and ensure that he returns fresh for the Australia tour. I am sure a lot of seniors will come back fit in a month's time and that will allow the selectors to give Dhoni the much-deserved rest. India is mostly unbeatable at home, but the real test will come when they tour Australia.
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