Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Why Dhoni Must Remain As Captain

The ongoing call for sacking Dhoni as captain in Tests is a reaction that we have often seen and heard. Many of our ex-cricketers, fans and so called experts come to the fore the moment the Indian side loses a few Tests and calls for older players to be dropped and radical changes made all over. Some people want the entire system to be changed, some want the captain changed, so want the sponsor changed - some change must be made to appease them. I do not understand these knee jerk reactions from these people.

An Extraordinary Leader
Considering the fact that Dhoni has been the only Indian captain who has won two World Cups, in the T20 and 50 over format, won an amazing number of matches in various formats of the game, taken the team to leading position in all formats of the game, and has proven his calm and composure in winning games for almost all the sides he has played for, there is no doubt that he is an extraordinary talent as a captain, a leader. To lead a side that is packed with several battle scarred seniors, the Tendulkars, Sehwags, Dravids, Laxmans and many more, and bring them all to rise above their own issues and contribute to the team's good calls for great man management skill. It is a rare talent and one that must be nurtured.

Man Manager Par Excellence - Belief in Self and Team
Dhoni may not be technically the most astute captain. He may not be the best strategically, even tactically. His field placements sometimes bewilder everyone. His choice of bowling changes also. But what he has in ample measure is belief that he and his team can pull it off in any situation. This one factor more than makes up for all his other shortcomings. He strides around as if he knows exactly what is going to happen and dares the opponent to go out and get that victory if he so badly wants it. He throws the ball to the Rainas, the Yuvrajs, the Joginder Sharmas and the Jakatis and they all bowl like champions. Half the side gone and some young upstart like a Kohli stands up. The youngsters and the senior players are given the space, the confidence, the responsibility and they all perform. They never appear under pressure. That is his one quality that makes him far superior than any technically better qualified, strategically superior player, because Dhoni can pull it off on the field, in the heat of the moment, while all else can only justify later what went wrong in flowery words.

Others Don't Compare
To me the others don't compare as captaincy material. Tendulkar is too intense and puts immense pressure on his players. It is only recently that he is letting go and letting them be. Sehwag leaves it too much to the players to figure it out for themselves which will never work in a big match like the World Cup final or semi final or a quarter final even when the players look to the captain to hold their belief. Dravid is too caught up in his own game, his own insecurities to rally all the others around him - he believes in doing his job well and anything beyond that adds to the burden on his shoulders. Laxman is also in the Sehwag mould, though in a less abrasive manner I'd suspect, more leaning to the Azhar style of captaincy that at this level everyone should know what they are doing - something I never subscribed to because at every level there are players who need to be told. The only one who comes close to matching Dhoni is the intense, fiercely competitive Kohli, who knows his own mind and more importantly knows what he wants - to win. Yuvraj's captaincy has been exposed in the IPL.

Needs Support
Dhoni is a young man. These players play under tremendous pressure of not just the games but hectic schedules that drain them a lot. They require a lot of support in terms of mentoring. Something that Gary Kirsten did so effectively. If there is a problem with the team it must be shared by the supposedly expert support staff because this is almost the same team that did the country proud just a few months ago,. Two series down and we already want long standing changes including sacking all the seniors, all the rarest talent and replace them. With whom?

Coach and Support Staff to Blame
To me the problem lies not with the players. They have become defensive and that reflects their mindset. Now this is an area that the Coach and the many support staff need to figure out and get it right. Duncan Fletcher is the one to gun for if he is not able to get it right. Player fatigue, fear, confused mindset - it all shows in the players performance. The support staff needs to pull up their socks and get their act right - make the atmosphere conducive for the players to perform at their best. I have not heard a word yet from Duncan Fletcher and I'd like to hear his take.

Don't Kill the Talent, Support It
Dhoni is not the only one in the team. Agreed we have lost two series and in bad fashion but that does not mean we replace and kill whatever talent we have. Captaincy is also a confidence issue. by constantly pulling out the plant and examining its roots we will kill it. Let it grow, let it find its space. See if something can be done to help the team find a better atmosphere. I have not heard a single creative, supportive, value added suggestion by our so-called experts except go back to lamenting the bad system, arrogant players etc. Come on guys back off. Dhoni is still your best bet in all formats for the next three years, until the Kohli's are ready. Give him the support, examine the support system, examine the hectic schedules they play in and let them be. Is there some kind of a counseling or brainstorming session that the captain can go to in his off days and meet some experts at the NCA? Or is this an are no one knows anything about? Can't something be done to ease this tremendous strain from the young man's shoulders?
It's time to nurture and support. To see if there is someway he can find out what he did right and what is going wrong. In any case Dhoni is still too fresh off some amazing wins to be written off so early. I'd trade these two series losses for the World Cup win anyday.

A Nation That Is Happy With the Mediocre

But I'd like to see more constructive stuff coming out from these ex-cricketers who have not achieved an iota of what Dhoni has. As a nation we are always in a hurry to bring down anything that is progressive. We can't seem to wait to stop all progress, call for changes that will make us regress many years. Clearly we are comfortable with the mediocre, with the non-achievers, because they make us comfortable. They do not show us our own mediocrity. So when an icon shows signs of weakness, we are in a hurry to tear them down and beat them down so they never get up.

To me Dhoni is still doing a good job. Fire the Coach for non-performance and get a new one if you have to fore someone.

1 comment:

Nikhil Kuruganti said...

Good to see this article sir