Big game hunting in wild, wild west
Cornered 0-2 down, Dhoni must recreate old magic to salvage situation. Rohit Bhaskar reports. Beer party on WACA pitch? | Make or break at Perth | It's a Perth Test after all | Match reckonerindia Updated: Jan 13, 2012 08:54 IST
It's that time again, of the make-or-break kind. Situations like this call for something other than the tried and tested, something extra.
Down 0-2 in the Test series, and on a seemingly never-ending run of six straight away Test defeats, facing a green monster of a pitch that's been the undoing of many an Indian team in the past and an Aussie juggernaut that is on the up after plummeting to record lows a few months back. The odds are stacked against MS Dhoni.
Not that they ever were in his favour, not when he was a ticket collector, not when he threw the ball to Joginder Singh in the last over of the inaugural World T20 final against Pakistan in 2007, not when he opted to promote himself ahead of the in-form Yuvraj Singh in the 2011 World Cup final against Lanka.
But with Dhoni, the story isn't just about overcoming the odds. It's the manner in which he surmounts them that makes it quintessentially MSD. Captain Cool. Over the barren run that has infested the team since the trip to England, the once proud skipper is looking a pale shadow of his former self. What was once construed as alternate is now perceived as defensive. Where you once saw calm, you now view aloofness. Everything bows to success, even failure.
To take a word straight out of Mad Hatter's lingo, he's lost his 'muchness'. This isn't a Lewis Carroll book, and Dhoni hasn't fallen down a rabbit hole.
Dhoni the skipper, the batsman, the leader, needs to regain his muchness. He needs to bring back that mystique of unpredictability back to his game.
Does he take a gamble on the two young guns he has, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma? Does he play both? Should he not only play them but also promote them to No 3 and No 4, displace Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar from the perches they've held for so long and in turn inspire the youngsters to greater things?
When Michael Clarke became captain one of the first things he did was demote Ricky Ponting to No 4. Ricky 'I've scored 32 cenutries at one-drop' Ponting. The man who stepped in for him, Shaun Marsh, got a century on debut. Or should Dhoni go in four quicks? Fight fire with fire? Give Australia a hostile mix of swing, seam, bounce and outright pace. India have those resources.
Or should he draft in left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha? Or should he keep faith with R Ashwin, like he did that night in Port Elizabeth. A match after he gave away 23 runs in the final over of a CLT20 tie, Dhoni went back to him with the match heading towards a close finish. The off-spinner responded with a two-wicket over that won his team the match.
He's got it all to do. But, the million dollar question is, what will he do?