After Dhoni, who?
The lack of a clear successor is delaying the change in India’s captaincy in Test Cricket
Sandeep Kumar Delhi
When Team India takes on mighty Australia in February, there is great uncertainty over who will stand opposite Aussie skipper Michael Clarke to spin the coin. After being humiliated by the Englishmen on their home turf, Indian fans waited a whole year to avenge the crushing defeat. As the English side arrived in India, former English cricketers predicted a whitewash in India’s favour but the revenge series turned into an embarrassment for the hosts and England won their first series in India after 26 years.
Favourable conditions, spinning tracks, low bounce, vociferous home support. What else could MS Dhoni and his men ask for? Though the Indian team’s revenge series began on a high, the joy was short-lived as the Englishmen bounced back and won the four-match Test series 2-1. Dhoni’s decision to go with spinning tracks boomeranged and the English spinners exploited conditions that were supposed to help Indian bowlers. Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann bowled with great discipline and, in innings after innings, the formidable Indian batting collapsed like a house of cards.
Throughout the series, the experts were baffled with the way Dhoni led the team, and questioned some of his decisions. It was suggested that a change in captaincy would be a viable solution to help the team get back to its winning ways. Dhoni continued with his disastrous streak in the shorter format against England and Pakistan, and ‘Captain Cool’ was no longer cool. Experts and fans have started to point fingers at the man who was once the golden boy of Indian cricket. Under these circumstances, fans are demanding he step down as skipper. Even his hardcore supporters have begun to question his ability to lead the team in the longer format of the game. So, has he lost his Midas touch? Does he deserve a place in the Test squad? Should India finally go with split captaincy on a full-time basis? These are some of the questions being raised about Dhoni, who until now has had a golden run as India’s captain in all formats of the game.
Except for the West Indies and Bangladesh, no other cricketing team employs one captain across all the formats. Andrew Strauss passed on the baton to Alastair Cook after England lost the number one spot in the Test rankings, Ross Taylor chose to withdraw from the One-Day and T-20 squad after being removed from the skipper’s post, AB Dellivers vacated the T-20 post for Faf du Plessis, George Bailey for Michael Clarke and Angelo Mathews for Mahela jayawardene in the shorter format.
After losing 10 Tests in the past year, the demand for Dhoni’s sacking is definitely not unfair. However, the important question on the minds of the selectors must be: if not Dhoni, then who? Virender Sehwag is not a viable option. Though he has captained Team India on a few occasions, his fitness is a matter of concern. Moreover, Sehwag is at the fag end of his career and this would perhaps derail the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)’s plan to appoint a young leader. Gautam Gambhir, the southpaw who led the Kolkata Knight Riders to victory in IPL 5, is also struggling and his form has dipped in past months. Despite being an opener, Gambhir hasn’t scored a century in two years and that could play on the selectors’ minds. Then there is Virat Kohli, India’s run machine in 2012, who, after making his debut in the Under-19 World Cup in 2008, was being projected as a future captain. However, his stints as captain of North Zone failed to impress any of his critics.
With a dearth of players like Anil Kumble, who could be substituted as part-time captain in order to groom a young captain, the Board faces a tough decision. Dhoni’s dominance in the shorter format is unquestionable and this should dissuade the selectors from going in for major overhauling. They might wait till the Australia series to pass a verdict on Dhoni’s future.