Kolkata, Dec. 10 -- Till March last year, Mahendra Singh Dhoni was a man who could do no wrong, a man with the Midas touch. But two things happened after that. First, coach Gary Kirsten left and Duncan Fletcher took over. Then, India went to England and lost 0-4 in Tests. They came back without winning a single game, not even in T20, not even an ODI. There was some hue and cry but things settled down because it was believed to be an obvious slump following the high of winning the World Cup.
Another 0-4 drubbing to Australia in Tests followed and then India failed to reach the final of the one-day series, pipped by Sri Lanka. In the meanwhile, speculation of a rift in the team between Virender Sehwag and Dhoni cropped up but was killed by the Board. Immediately after Australia, India lost to Bangladesh in the Asia Cup and failed to make the final in Dhaka as well. The IPL followed and things went under the carpet.
The back-to-back humiliation to England at home has rekindled the grouse. Dhoni's captaincy in Tests has been questioned and so has been his individual performance with the bat. His wicket-keeping too has gone down a few notches. He has scored just seven 50s and a 100 in 18 Tests since the World Cup, two of them against New Zealand and the century against the West Indies.
Dodging the question
Top teams like South Africa, Australia and England have moved away from one captain for all formats, saying it was too much of a burden on one man. For us, Dhoni not only leads in all formats, he keeps wickets as well. The man himself believes that wicket-keeping is not a burden but rather an advantage while setting the field.
But he quietly dodged the question on whether he would prefer different skippers for different formats.
"As a leader it's a challenge thrown at me. It's always good to lead a side that is doing well and everybody's performing. That's not the time you need a leader.
Leading a side is when the team isn't doing well. You try to gel the team together, back the youngsters and communicate with the senior guys, try to move in the right direction," said Dhoni.
"The easiest thing for me right now is to quit captaincy and be a regular player. That's like running away from responsibility. My responsibility is to get the team together and be prepared for the next match," he said adding that the eight-match losing streak to England and Australia was his lowest point. "That was not just about the result. The problem was we were not able to compete."
But he disagreed that Fletcher's appointment has virtually come to nothing. "He (Fletcher) has great technical knowledge on batting. He guides the players in the right direction but ultimately once you cross that rope you are on your own. That's the time when you stand up and retaliate. That's where we are lacking as of now," he said.
Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.