Get captain and deputy on same page

In cricket, when a team has done well, there has been a great connect between the captain and his deputy.

By S. Kannan

There has been an upward swing in India’s performance in the triangular series in Australia, but talk of splitting captaincy is again making news at home.

Now that Sahara’s sponsorship deal with the Indian cricket board has been sorted out and the Pune Warriors’ woes in the Indian Premier League have been addressed, some of the wise men in the selection committee are said to be thinking. Not about how they can take credit for the better showing in the ODIs, but how split captaincy could actually become a reality.

For all of us who saw the action live on television in the Test series where India lost 0-4, it was clear that there were several reasons for the thrashing.

Yet, one facet which hasn’t been dwelt upon too much in the public domain is the seeming disconnect between the captain and the vice-captain — MS Dhoni and Virender Sehwag.

It is well-known that in a team sport like hockey or football, it is the coach and the manager who play a big role.

Then again, if you take up Davis Cup captaincy, it does involve strategic planning for the players to get onto the tennis court.

But cricket is different — there has to be good understanding between the captain and the vice-captain.

That seemed missing between Dhoni and Sehwag in the Tests, though in the ODIs the good run till now camouflages the distance between the two men.

In cricket, when a team has done well, there has been a great connect between the captain and his deputy.

One of the examples of it is how Imran Khan and Javed Miandad handled the Pakistan team at its prime.

And if you look at results in our own country, when Sourav Ganguly was the captain, Rahul Dravid was an able deputy.

So what is it that the captain and vice-captain do on the cricket field that we can all see? From field placing to bowling changes and even changes in the batting order, a captain makes the decision. In the case of Dhoni, his record outside the subcontinent in Tests has been average.

Losses to England and Australia and a huge dip in his own batting form makes Dhoni vulnerable today. So if people are thinking of naming Sehwag as the next Test captain, it definitely could mean Dhoni’s own spot in the team coming under the scanner.

While I am not really in favour of split captaincy in Indian cricket, there certainly are ‘developments’ taking place.

Then again, this is not the first time we have a situation where the relationship between the captain and the vice-captain is frosty.

When Sunil Gavaskar was the captain and Kapil Dev his deputy, it wasn’t a very comfortable situation. Later, the same problem cropped up when Mohammad Azharuddin was the skipper and Sachin Tendulkar the vice-captain.

Dhoni and Sehwag don’t seem to share the same wave length. At one point of time in 2009, when Sehwag’s team Delhi Daredevils had missed out on the IPL final two years in a row, he stepped aside to let someone else have a go at it. As a result, Gautam Gambhir became the Daredevils’ captain in 2010.

However, it is understood Sehwag is not averse to Test captaincy now and we may see again a new phase in Indian cricket — that of split captaincy.

People who swore by Dhoni’s captaincy when he won us the ICC World Cup will agree he makes his own decisions. It has worked for the team in the ODIs and even now in the tri-series, Mr Midas seems happy.

He has been unconventional so many times, but as far as Test cricket goes, Dhoni certainly cannot continue in an autocratic manner.

At a time when the role of coach Duncan Fletcher is also under the scanner, it would make sense for those who run Indian cricket to ensure the captain, the vice-captain and the coach can work as a unit.

Much as cricket captains would like to resist inputs from outside and make their own bold decisions on the field, there is no scope for disconnect between Dhoni and Sehwag.

It is not as if these two men are from different generations like Anil Kumble and Dhoni. In the interest of Indian cricket, it would make sense to ensure we can have a leader and his deputy who will think together.

Captains have traditionally relied on their deputies for inputs on the team and what their own players talk among themselves. And for all of us who believe our selectors are professionals and do a sincere job, why not make an approach to get Dhoni and Sehwag together? It was bad enough to see egos and tough posturing come into play between the BCCI and Sahara over the last fortnight.

Surely, chairman of selection committee K Srikkanth needs to tell us what exactly his own ‘team’ is thinking on the apparent differences between Dhoni and Sehwag.

Reproduced From Mail Today. Copyright 2012. MTNPL. All rights reserved.