Had MS Dhoni not been the captain

Author : Tej
Indian cricket team captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni (L) and Cheteshwar Pujara walk off the pitch during the second day of the first Test cricket match between India and New Zealand at the Rajiv Gandhi International cricket stadium in Hyderabad on August 24, 2012. AFP PHOTO / Noah SEELAM (Photo credit should read NOAH SEELAM/AFP/GettyImages)

MS Dhoni should rope in Cheteshwar Pujara into the ODI team as soon as possible

In the last six months or so, Team India has woven a thread of defeats overseas. The team has been losing way too many games for its liking, and comprehensively so. MS Dhoni, being the leader of the troops, deserves a major share of the blame.

A team which became the world champion under his leadership is down in the dumps at the moment.  After every piece of failure, he gets away with it citing the inexperience in the eleven. Losing games is fine for a young side. However, repeating the same mistakes time and again is not pardonable.

The Indian team has had familiar problems all along this while.  The top order isn’t firing; middle order is brittle and undependable, spinners aren’t picking up wickets in the middle overs and consequently, our ever so poor death bowling is left exposed.

Dhoni has always preferred to maintain a settled and unchanged side. However, this strategy of persisting with the tried and tested has proved to be counterproductive of late. A couple of players are visibly lacking in skill and temperament to survive the trying conditions abroad.

However, inflexible approach on part of Dhoni has made India pay. Dhoni has the knack of blaming the lack of resources for losing games. It is indeed quite ironical given he doesn’t experiment with fresh talent. How he can he judge without even trying them?

Former Indian skipper, Sunil Gavaskar has been making a lot of headlines of late thanks to his brassy criticism of the Indian national team. In a recent TV interview, he raised a grave issue of favouritism in the Indian team. Quite evidently, there are players in the team who have been lucky to survive for as long as they have.

As a result, everywhere the team tours, four extremely talented players have to warm the benches because of the skipper’s adamancy. It has mattered less whether the team has performed or not. Indifferent attitude towards consistent failures only tends to worsen the case.

As Gavaskar suggests, it seems that a kind of atmosphere has been built in the team wherein the outsiders aren’t allowed permission!

There’s no hiding the fact that MS Dhoni has close links with the BCCI president N Srinivasan. Even the most forward looking selection committee won’t have its way against the wishes of Mr. Srinivasan. Consequently, a few players have been backed despite unimpressive shows.

Let’s have a look the players who wouldn’t have retained/shouldn’t be retaining their place in the nation team, but for MS Dhoni. Also, keeping the World Cup 2015 in mind, we take a look at the deserving replacements.

1. Rohit Sharma out, Cheteshwar Pujara in

Rohit Sharma made his international debut in the 1st edition of World T20, held in 2007. He was stamped as being elegant, stylish, expert at wrist-work, and having a lot of time to play his shots. With all the accolades, it took 6 long years for him to debut in Test Cricket.

Sharma’s lazy elegance and penchant to play expansive strokes early on in his innings has time and again cost him and the team, alike. Just because he was talented, Dhoni backed him. Nobody could make Mr. Captain understand that there were hundreds of players waiting in the wings, desperate to perform.

Now that he is the opener and is performing decently well doesn’t discount the fact that had Dhoni not been the captain, Rohit Sharma would have long been forgotten.

At the top of the order, a reliable batsman is a must, particularly in conditions down under. Pujara was/is the ideal option to replace Rohit Sharma. He is technically solid, temperamentally efficient, and has the List A record (2947 runs at 54.57) to back it up.

It is a pity that Pujara is trying his hands at part-time bowling to strengthen his case, as if his batting abilities weren’t enough!

2. Ishant Sharma out, Ishwar Pandey in

Ishant Sharma, too, is a curious case, like the other Sharma. He hit the ground running as he entered the senior squad. With sheer pace, height and movement at his disposal, he was able to upset the best batsmen in the world.

However, over the years, he has lost on pace and movement. Despite having gathered an experience of over 50 Tests, he doesn’t spearhead the attack. His lackadaisical attitude has decisively impacted team’s fortune.

For a reason only known to Dhoni, Ishant was persisted with until he was left with no other option but to cast him aside.

Ishwar Pandey has been waiting in the wings for a while now. He has been topping the wicket-taker charts in the domestic circuit for a couple of years. Moreover, performing well in practice games ahead of internationals hasn’t furthered his contention either.

MS Dhoni believes that he is a ‘work in progress’ and hence can’t be proceeded with. How can he be gauged without being put to test?

3. Suresh Raina out, Ambati Rayudu in

Indian batsman Ambati Rayudu plays a shot during the fourth match of the Asia Cup one-day cricket tournament between Indian and Sri Lanka at the Khan Shaheb Osman Ali Stadium in Fatullah, on the outskirts of Dhaka on February 28, 2014. AFP PHOTO/Dibyangshu SARKAR (Photo credit should read DIBYANGSHU SARKAR/AFP/Getty Images)

Ambati Rayudu has impressed when given a chance

Suresh Raina is a different case, altogether. He has justified his tremendous talent by playing responsible cricket over a period of time. However, his infamous weakness against the bouncing ball has taken away his effectiveness in overseas conditions.

He has never lacked in commitment and team-spirit. But performances do matter. Not for MS Dhoni though, who persevered with his CSK teammate, in spite of repeated failures abroad.

Ambati Rayudu, a prolific performer in the Vijay Hazare Trophy and the IPL, got the ‘big ticket’ against minnow nations, where he did deliver. In IPL, he is a key force in the Mumbai Indians’ setup. But, he had to wait for a long time to get a look in the first string squad.

Rayudu’s finishing skills would come handy in Australia. For that to happen, he must be given a consistent run.

4. Ravichandran Ashwin out, Amit Mishra in

Ashwin is arguably, the most intelligent cricketer in the current lot. But, somehow, his intelligence has played against him time and again. Not sticking to the basics and trying too many variations has been his biggest nemesis.

At home, not many can outmatch him. But while travelling, he’s not even India’s best. Ashwin is often accused of not putting much back behind his deliveries, the value of which cannot be ignored in alien conditions.

Despite his inability to pick up wickets overseas, Dhoni has stuck with him, possibly to contain runs. Well, that hasn’t happened either.

The decade gone by has been a decade of denial for Amit Mishra. A wily leg-break spinner, Mishra has had all the tricks in his bag, but the presence of Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh meant that there was no space for him. When they went, Ashwin and Jadeja came to the fore, and he’s still denied opportunities.

Mishra betters Ashwin in many a respect. Unlike Ashwin, he isn’t afraid to toss the ball up. Moreover, when it comes to immaculately consistency, Mishra is still one notch above him. It assumes all the more significance given he is a wrist spinner.

The bouncy surfaces in Australia assist a leg spinner more, and hence it becomes all the more important to pick him ahead of Ashwin for the World Cup scheduled next year.

Here are a few more aspects which could have been otherwise, had it not been for MSD:

Seniors Ignored: If it had not been for Dhoni, the veterans like Wasim Jaffer and Kedar Jadav, who have been piling up runs in the Ranji trophy for years, would have made it to the Indian test team. Dhoni wants ‘young legs’ on the field, but is it at the cost of a solid batting order?

DRS: Captain Dhoni was one of the first players from India to raise his disapproval for the use of technology. During the 2011 tour of Australia, he refuted the accuracy of DRS calling it as not being “100% perfect.” However India has lost numerous opportunities in both ODIs and Tests because of the lack of the technology in place. Is Dhoni’s viewpoint, BCCI’s viewpoint?

Pitch Preparation: Dhoni has been bluntly advocating for square turners to be prepared for Test matches played on home soil. Is he crossing his limits and interfering in a matter he must have no say on?

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