Second wind for skipper Dhoni
When MS Dhoni took charge in 2008, he had the kind of riches to fall back on that would be the envy of any Test captain. N Ananthanarayanan reports. Dhoni's captaincy in numbersindia Updated: Mar 25, 2013 03:42 IST
When MS Dhoni took charge in 2008, he had the kind of riches to fall back on that would be the envy of any Test captain. The sheer class and experience of the batsmen meant things ran pretty much on auto pilot. But the perfect world began crumbling around him starting with a subdued post-World Cup Test series win in West Indies in 2011.
The subsequent series routs in England and Australia, the retirements of Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman and the defeat against England at home, after taking the series lead, saw every move of his being questioned. His demand for rank turners at home and defensive captaincy came under the scanner. No international skipper would have survived but he got the continued support of the Board bosses and the selectors.
Thus, the series rout of Australia has infused fresh vitality in him like the 3-0 whitewash of England did to an under-fire
Mohd Azharuddin in 1993. It is clear Dhoni is in full charge of a team in transition.
The 4-0 success has given fans much to cheer but the true strength of the team will be judged overseas - India are not scheduled to play Tests until the end of the year when they tour South Africa, New Zealand and England. But the change is very clear.
With Harbhajan Singh on the wane, only Sachin Tendulkar - the Delhi Test could be his last at home - is part of the old brigade. In batting, Cheteshwar Pujara is of the classical mould and Virat Kohli is growing into a world-class player. Opener Murali Vijay, 28, tempered his aggression to re-ignite his Test career against Australia.
Some of the other new players who are flourishing under Dhoni are those who may not meet the demands of purists but are smart enough to get the job done. Off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin banished his self-doubts in the series while Ravindra Jadeja and swing bowler Bhuvneshwar Kumar have overcome limitations to make an impact as Test bowlers.
"Individuals learnt a lot from the tough period and we were able to implement the learning in this particular series. At the same time, we were able to build partnerships. That was the key. When we were batting, we said what we want are partnerships. Ultimately, if you earn the kind of partnerships you are talking about, you'll get individuals who will score centuries. It was crucial to break down the strategy," said Dhoni.
He explained his hands-on captaincy in this series. "I had to change a bit. The batting line-up has changed a lot, almost completely.
When you have experienced cricketers in the side, you don't have to be vocal at times. But what's important with the new side is you have to keep telling them what needs to be done, what are the faults, all those small things that really matter. When it comes to operating on the field, nothing much has really changed. I also felt with this young side it's important to get them into a system because the habits they get used to right now are what they'll go ahead with."