In his column for ESPN cricinfo, Rahul Dravid feels that Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni must start asking for help, for he cannot do everything all the time. The ‘Wall’ added that Gautam Gambhir could not be thought of as future captain, for he was struggling to get runs under his belt. Singling out Virat Kohli for special mention, Dravid mentioned that it might be a little too early for the talented right-hander to take over.
He comes back to Dhoni after looking at his possible successors, doling out both praise and criticism, along with a couple of suggestions. One of these include MSD stepping down as captain of the Indian T20 team, and also the Chennai Super Kings. Dravid also expects the ‘Jharkhand Jadoogar’ to communicate better, justifying it with a premise that he needs to bring in a lot more energy and involvement, if he wants to help the Indian cricket team to wade through its present crisis, and become a force to reckon with. Once more.
India will always be competitive in limited-overs cricket; it is in Test cricket that the real transition is taking place. The departures of Sachin and Zaheer, and now Veeru, mean there's a bit of a shake-up in ODIs, but it is more stark in Test cricket. Over the last five years as captain, for the most part Dhoni led a team that had a lot of experienced players. He led on instinct and gut feel, and it worked brilliantly for him. His team-mates included Sachin, myself, Laxman, Sehwag, Zaheer and Harbhajan, and we didn't need instructions about what to do to perform. Now Dhoni is captaining a team with young guys, who need more communication and guidance. They are learning about international cricket and dealing with their own stresses and challenges; they need someone to help them, to explain what is happening - for example, when people are dropped.
One of the criticisms directed at Dhoni has been that there is very little communication about plans and roles either. He is not one for bowling plans and bowlers' meetings. When you have senior bowlers like Zaheer, Kumble and Harbhajan, the captain need not worry about all that because the bowlers know what to do. On the other hand, the younger bowlers coming in now, like Ashwin and Ojha, need to know what the plan is, and need to make sure that they are on the same page. They need to discuss strategy and planning well before they go onto the field. Without that, younger guys in a team can get a bit disoriented.
Bowling attacks make good captains and successful teams. Dhoni needs to identify the next generation of bowlers who can do the job for him, because without a good bowling attack, India are going to struggle; they might have the odd success, but I can't see how they're going to be competitive and stay that way.
If Dhoni needs help, he needs to be clear about what kind of help, and he needs to ask for it. He should take advice and assistance from people around him: guys like Duncan Fletcher and the support staff have knowledge to provide. Dhoni has got to start tapping those resources a bit more in terms of tactics and strategy. Maybe he needs to listen to what other people say, rather than always relying on his instinct - especially with respect to the bowlers.
I don't think anybody expects him to have great success in the immediate future. People recognise that this is a period of transition and that there are going to be tough days. What they need to know, though, is that the way forward has been clearly mapped. Dhoni has got to have a vision of where he wants this team to be at the end of that England tour next year. And he needs to identify a set of players to take India through the next five years.
This is a critical phase for Indian cricket. If Dhoni wants to lead India, the job is going to demand a lot more energy and involvement from him. He is the man for it at the moment, if he can find that second wind.