It is said that Mike Brearley, the widely respected former England captain, had a degree in people. Widely regarded as one of the finest captains in the game, he is now a psychoanalyst. For him, Mahendra Singh Dhoni has made for an interesting case study in this series. He sums up the Indian team's lack of fight here.
Excerpts from an interview:
Surprised at how the series had gone?
It hasn't been a series. It's only been one side. It's been strange. I don't want to see matches that are one-sided. It is very disappointing.
What are your views on Dhoni?
The thing I am most disappointed with Dhoni is his wicket-keeping. He can't catch the ball. What's going on? I know the ball is wobbling, it is expected to. Matt Prior is doing a decent job, and Dhoni has been here before. India is up against a very good side, and if you have to win against them, you have to show more aggression and a little bit more action. Not just him, the whole team. But it has to come from him.
It is difficult to captain, keep wickets, and then to lose your two best bowlers (Zaheer and Harbhajan). Things have gone against them. But then again he won the toss in the first two Tests. They were very good tosses to win. If England would have won those two tosses, India would have been out for very low scores. I don't think it is just a matter of bad luck. One makes one's own luck, largely.
What did you feel was going wrong?
I don't know them that closely, but the questions are about players' preparedness. Virender Sehwag has a shoulder operation after the IPL, not before it. He comes here, plays one knock at Northampton, doesn't get runs, doesn't get much fielding. Is that good preparation for the Tests? No.
Zaheer, even though he bowled 13 overs and got two wickets, didn't look good. He's not his old self, didn't have as much zip as he had before. Was he fit, or was it bad luck? This chap, RP Singh, has put on weight and hasn't played first-class cricket since January. What about team's preparation? They play one game at Taunton. Three-fourths of the team comes from West Indies, the rest come from India having not played at all. It seems priorities are not right, as a team and individually. Is it too easy to make a million dollars and the advertisements on top of that? They are in a very nice position, your Indian stars.
You were at Lord's. What was your impression of India?
Things started falling apart after Zaheer got injured. He's the only bowler who could get the side out. It seems to be a lack of conviction that you can actually do something.
They were world No 1. Do all the qualities disappear overnight?
Everything declines. This is a very saddening decline. Of course, they will do better in India, but it doesn't look good. The bowling looks so thin. You can't win matches unless you have bowlers. The batsmen have been fielding for two days every time here. They are chasing 500-600 runs every time; they are tired and the English bowlers are fresh. It's not so much the batting but the bowling that is worrying.
When things don't work, how should the captain respond?
One of the things about captaincy is when things are going badly you have to intervene more. You have to be more proactive, be more energetic. When things are going well, you can almost take a back seat and just fine tune the machine. When Ishant Sharma had that excellent spell in England's second innings at Lord's, having reduced them to 62 for five, if Ian Botham was doing it, you couldn't get the ball out of his hands and I wouldn't let him. You have to seize those moments, they don't come back. It was ridiculous to start with a part-time spinner after lunch. I would have started with Sharma and Kumar.
What qualities you look for in a captain?
One quality is to be able to build relationships in the team and get them to play the best they can. Get everyone thinking about the team's task and not just individual tasks. Now look at Sreesanth, he's much more disciplined, much balanced but looks less like getting anyone out. What's happened to him? Where's his vigour, aggression?
Would you have let him be?
I don't know. Sreesanth's obviously a great trier. You would want him in your side. He is not bowling quickly enough. It's as if he is telling himself he should be a good boy. He must have a bit of the wild boy about him as well. Obviously the balance can be difficult, he could be too wild and could throw runs away. He hasn't done this time but he hasn't shown the aggression.
Dhoni had not lost a Test series, he is a double World Cup winner.
The question is they had a very good run but now some of the players are getting older. Bowling is much weaker. Is he going to be the one who is going to build that team? Does he have that drive? The next year will be the real challenge for Dhoni.