The humiliating defeat at the hands of England at ‘Mecca of cricket” Lord’s, Indian skipper M S Dhoni’s leadership qualities come under screening. Not so long ago, he had been lifted to the hilt by the game legends world over as the best skipper India has ever produced. But, with the historic match loss at Lord’s by 196 runs, Dhoni’s that image got dented.
He not only failed to shuffle his bowlers well, also failed to inspire his batsman by leading from the front. His mis-adventurous act of bowling himself in the test drew all-round criticism back home. Most vocal was the game’s icon Kapil Dev, who termed it as ‘making mockery of test cricket.’ Many other cricketers and analysts found fault with Dhoni’s act as it undermines his own bowler’s capabilities. In fact, he came into lime light as wicket-keeper batsman (read hard-hitting) who can turn disadvantage situations into advantageous. It is no denying fact that during his captaincy the country could occupy the ‘dream slot’ on top of test match table as well capture the inaugural T-20 world cup.. Well, all this he could achieve as India performed as a team and for handling the situations well at trying times. No great personal contributions worth mentioning as batsman.
Contrary to this, several of his predecessors, including Md Azharuddin, Sourav Ganguly and Kapil Dev Nikhanj, set many personal records in India’s success either in test or One Day format. It was Kapil who led India’s fight from the front to get the first Prudential World Cup in 1983 for the first time. Prior to that it was A L Wadekar-led Indian team registered the first ever test series win on English soil. Till Dhoni took over the team captaincy, none of the past teams were so well composed and had world class and established batsmen and bowlers like Sachin Tendulkars, Rahul Dravids, Sehwags, Ghambirs, Zaheers and Harbhajans. In other words, the past Indian teams were all pretty ordinary, though it had in its ranks of greats like Sunil Gavaskars or world class spinners like Prasannas, Chandras, and Bedis.
Thus far, Dhoni happens to be the most fortunate skipper to get such an excellent and balanced world class team. In spite of having such a team, how come India could lose to England, which no way can be compared? Wasn’t it due to over confidence of skipper Dhoni? Of late, the praise showered on him and the money and fame appears to have gone to his head. He is not in his usual sense and this was evident from his decision to leave the gloves to bowl in the first test, that too an important one at Lords. What he could achieve from such act, except drawing flak from cricket fans.
Undoubtedly he made mockery of test cricket as the first ever wicket-keeper skipper venturing in such an act. It may be true that as a wicket-keeper he can be best advisors to bowlers to maintain right line and length. That doesn’t mean he should shoulder that responsibility himself. To my cricketing knowledge, the wicket-keeper captains like Adam Gilchrist of Australia or the part time skipper Murray of West Indies made any such attempts.
Dhoni losing hold on his leading qualities, to me, it appears begun from Caribbean tour, when he let lose chances of clinching the serious 2-1, instead of 1-0. His refusal to take advantage of the situation of scoring required 80-odd runs for victory in 16-17 overs was the biggest blunder he had committed to lost faith among his fans. He should take a leaf out of former cricket icons and predecessors like Kapil, who never -ever let lose grabbing such opportunities, though they seldom came. Yet, he on many occasions pulled the country from jaws of defeat including the bone against none other than England more than a decade. His brave knock not only helped India suffer an innings defeat but helped to draw the match.
Cricket lovers back home wanted Dhoni to do such fetes. Had he stood like a rock in the middle and saved Indian second innings collapsed, cricket buffs could have yet again praised him for his bravery. He did not do. He got out cheaply. Sachins illness and Ghambirs unexpected injury added to India’s woes.