Sunday, August 7, 2011

Dhoni - The Key To a Turnaround

All said and done the Indian team is looking down and out. The defeat in the tour game must be causing further distress. The bowling is just not there. The batting is struggling. The team looks in a disarray. The press is having a field day. Only a miracle, like someone said, could see an Indian revival.

To me the key is Dhoni and his mindset. He needs to do something to come out of his current mindset. Ideally spend time with himself and a pen and a paper and ask himself what he did right earlier and what he needs to do now. I am sure he will come up with the answers. He is an intelligent man and one who reacts quickly.

Team composition and injury problems are not an excuse because Dhoni has been a master at making complete rookies and novices deliver when it mattered the most. He trusted them and their ability just as he trusted himself and his ability. If there was one thing he made clear it was that no one was indispensable. If every one in the team believed in themselves, in the cause - a big job for the captain to make them do that because he himself must first believe and trust in himself and his team - then you have a resilient unit that can come back. There can be no favourites, no set decisions now - just a simple revisit to the days when it was all about survival. Dhoni needs to revisit those days and be as flexible as he was then when he had only what was given to him.

If the World Cup win is weighing on their minds, its better they drop it at the earliest. It's history. The conditions, the momentum everything was different. Now it is a new day. You are on the back foot, playing in the lion's den, in conditions that are suitable to the hosts, against a team that believes they are capable of pulling off a 4-0 result. Time to go back to the basics and look to seize control by attrition, not by force as in the second test, session by session, cut by cut.

Clearly the batting that is succeeding in England is the kind that relies on grit and technique, not flamboyant stroke making. It is time to adapt all batting to that strategy. In Gambhir, Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman we have batsmen who can graft and stay put for long hours. Sehwag can make his own plans as he does not belong to this school at all. I'd also go with Kohli and not Raina for the next test as Kohli is also a quick one to adapt and can lift the side with his freshness and combative attitude.

Dhoni's worries clearly lie with his bowlers. I think here he must go back to his old strategy of trusting what he has on his shelf rather than hoping that Zaheer will come back and rescue the team. Believe in your bowlers and work out the opposition by going back to the basics. If the Englishmen can swing the ball so too can the Indians - in Sreesanth, Praveen Kumar and Ishant (though I wish he'd cut down his pace and focus more on moving the ball in England) - we have bowlers who can swing the ball considerably ad pose questions to the Englishmen as well. The second test showed that. Get Zaheer into the mentor role for the next test and let the bowlers work around him.

Dhoni needs to go back to his biggest asset as a man manager - to trust his team and himself, to expect the world from them. Only then can the miracle happen. Because man to man I still believe, the Indian team is still better than the English team. It all now boils down to belief.

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