Fan proposes, MS Dhoni disposes, that is how India's most successful World Cup captain rolls. It is tough to guess what is going through the mind of the skipper, known as cricket’s uber cool captain with aces up his sleeve which he produces at crunch moments.
His captaincy exploits include:
Giving a young and inexperienced Joginder Sharma the last over in the inaugural T20 World Cup final and rest, as they say, is history. It was also the man known as 'Mahi' among his fans who asked an unheard of Yusuf Pathan to open the innings in the same final.
Promoting himself in the 2011 World Cup final against Sri Lanka and delivering that historic six over long on to give India the Cup.
'Captain Cool' was the one who wanted pace bowler Mohit Sharma in the 2015 World Cup squad, and Sharma's tally of 10 wickets has given credence to Dhoni's call once again
The list is never ending but the bottom line is, Dhoni’s unusual thinking has worked, in most cases. Call it his luck, fluke, fate or whatever you will, but it takes courage to take such decisions when one billion people are watching and scrutinising every move.
Another famous weapon of Dhoni is his backing of players woefully out of form.
He did it with Murali Vijay for Chennai Super Kings and the opener repaid Dhoni’s trust by leading the IPL team to many famous victories. Dhoni also insisted on persisting with Piyush Chawla in the 2011 World Cup. He backed Shikhar Dhawan all through his struggles before the Cup. And the left-handed opener now is among top run-getters in the tournament.
Dhoni has also kept his faith in Rohit Sharma despite the opener’s string of poor scores.
The breaking point
But Dhoni also knows when the time has come to bench a player. The question now lingering in everyone’s mind is whether the time has come to replace Rohit Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja and give others in the squad a chance.
But even if Dhoni decides to go for replacements, his options are limited. There is wicket-keeper batsman Ambati Rayudu, all-rounder Stuart Binny and rookie spinner Axar Patel.
Fans and experts are divided in their opinions. The following statistics tries to break down the performances of some players who are in the line of fire.
Last 10 away games
Rohit vs Rayudu
- 16, 64, 7, 57*, 0, 15, 138, 52, 18*, 56
With the 64 and 57* coming against weak oppositions, Rohit Sharma’s only bright spot was his 138 against Australia in Melbourne during the tri-series. He has failed against all the big teams (WI, SA, Pak) in this World Cup.
- 12, 23, 23, 53, 64*, 1, 1, 16*, 58, 18
Rayudu’s abysmal performance in the Carlton series make him a bad replacement option in place of Rohit Sharma on Australian soil. His best performance in away matches came during the 2014 England ODI series where he scored two half centuries which helped India clinch the series.
Also, out of the five ODIs he has played in Australia and New Zealand till now Rayudu has never scored a half-century.
Binny vs Jadeja vs Axar
Binny batting -
7, 44, 25*, 3, 0 (he has only played 5 away matches)
Binny bowling -
3/33, 1/34, 6/4
Jadeja batting -
13, 2, 3, 5, 87, 12*, 9*, 52*, 22*, 5
Jadeja bowling -
0/71, 1/45, 2/27, 2/23, 1/37, 1/56, 0/62, 0/66, 2/40, 1/38
Axar batting -
1,0,0,1,8 (he has only played 5 away matches)
Axar bowling -
1/39, 0/32, 1/45, 1/59
Binny’s 6 for 4, the best figures by an India bowler in ODIs, which he took against Bangladesh and also his gritty 44 against England when Indians fell like a pack of cards in the Carlton series third match puts him slightly ahead of Jadeja.
But except in a few matches Jadeja has always helped his skipper in containing the run-rate in mid-overs, picking up one or two wickets in the process.
Axar’s batting record looks like an Indian pin code but being fair to him he always batted with just a few overs remaining in the innings.
India has played against Bangladesh only five times since the last World Cup. And this is how the players in question have performed against Bangladesh. (NP - not picked in the playing XI, DNB - did not bat/bowl)
Rohit vs Rayudu
- 21, 4, NP, NP, NP
- NP, 9*, 16*, 1, 1
Rayudu's performance against Bangladesh is very poor. Rohit Sharma doesn't have a good record against Bangladesh either, but has picked up his game in the last 4 group games. It would be unwise to put Rayudu in Rohit's place for the crucial quarterfinal.
Binny vs Jadeja vs Axar
Stuart Binny batting
- NP, NP, NP, 3(8b), 25*(36b)
Stuart Binny bowling
- NP, NP, NP, 6/4, DNB
- DNB, 4*, NP, NP, NP
- 1/32, 0/37, NP, NP, NP
- NP, NP, DNB, 8, 1
- NP, NP, 1/59, DNB, DNB
Again one thing that stands out is Binny's six wicket haul.
What the head says:
Retain Rohit Sharma and pray that he clicks like Quinton de Cock in the South Africa vs Sri Lanka match on Wednesday. Replace Jadeja with Binny at least for the Bangladesh quarterfinal, he deserves a chance.
What the heart says:
Retain Rohit and also Jadeja. Dhoni is on a roll and he needs his most trusted lieutenant who takes care of the slog overs and also fetch some wickets. Jadeja also gives a pinch-hitting cushion.
What is going to happen:
Sri Lanka's Kusal Perera experiment (promoting him in place of Thirimanne) back-fired badly. 'Mystery spinner' Thiranda Kaushal turned out to be pretty ordinary. Changes can make or break a team's winning streak.