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Let's leave Dhoni alone

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http://www.holdingwilley.com/article/news/champions-trophy-schedule-announced-by-icc

MS_Dhoni_India_Bangladesh_series_loss_captainFirst things first, let’s congratulate Bangladesh on a fine ODI series win over India, and their ‘qualification’ for the 2017 Champions Trophy. Their new ODI ranking meant that neither Pakistan nor West Indies can catch up to them until 30 September 2015, the cut-off date for qualifying for the event in England two years later.

But what does this 2-1 series loss mean for the Men in Blue? It’s a simple two-word answer: absolutely nothing.

A physically tired, mentally jaded Indian team was beaten in a bilateral ODI series that had no consequence on their qualification for the 2017 Champions Trophy, or any other global event of note in this sport. Sure, the victory meant a lot to Bangladesh, keeping 2017 in mind, but how fair is it that they qualify two whole years in advance? It completely negates their (or any other team’s) ODI form in 2016. So, what will be the point of all the bilateral series that will be played in the next one year?

That is how useful such ODI series are, but their futility beyond TV rights and sponsor money is a debate for another day. Right now, the question is still about how useful this exercise was for Indian cricket. Beyond maintaining good relations with the Bangladesh Cricket Board and giving them a chance to ‘avenge’ that no-ball in the World Cup quarterfinal, the answer stays the same: absolutely nothing.

In the original FTP, this was supposed to be a five-ODI tour, but for political gain at the time of the ICC chairman ‘debate’, it was later adjusted to a Test and a three-ODI tour. Later, the same ICC chairman then almost forced the tour to be called off. N Srinivasan had major trouble with former ICC president Mustafa Kamal (from Bangladesh) during the just-concluded World Cup. But the new BCCI regime was strongly against it, and held off any such pressure.

And so, an Indian team that had been on-tour since December 2013 was Kamalagain shipped off. The BCCI also accepted the BCB’s request that a full-strength squad be sent forward, and the selectors did the needful. Nearly the same set of players, who had been playing through 13 Tests, three bilateral ODI series, one tri-series, one Asia Cup, one T20 World Cup, one ODI World Cup and two IPL seasons in the last 19 months, were chosen for duty.

 

Perhaps they were not up for the challenge. Maybe they should have been, for they are playing for the country. It is easy to make such statements while sitting on a chair in the comfort of a living room. But international sport is no holiday, never mind the IPL riches. This tour was a clear-cut case of mismanagement of players by the Indian cricket administration.

For example, Bhuvneshwar Kumar was photographed wearing an ankle brace during practice and whilst playing the ODI series. This is the same bowler who was over-bowled on the England tour and then missed almost the entire Australia Test series due to injury. Was there any need for him to be on this Bangladesh tour? The same question can be asked for each of the other over-worked players.

If propping Bangladesh up to the Champions Trophy was the ultimate target, the same could have been achieved by sending forth a B-string side. In that scenario, we could have witnessed some new players in action who would have been ‘up for it’.

This puts in perspective this wave of negativity against MS Dhoni.

First came that shove against Mustafizur Rahman and the ICC fine. Any half-blind man could have seen that the bowler was the primary guilty party, having first impeded Rohit Sharma earlier on in a similar fashion. Dhoni was making room for himself, and if the bowler went out injured from a shove, then he needs to tone up a bit.

This is not to say that Dhoni was not at fault, but the issue at hand is more the coverage that incident received back in India. Major dailies asked if ‘captain cool’ was starting to lose it. It is disappointing to see the Indian media turn against their own captain, especially when Australian or English media (even others) would have screamed murder in favour of their own in a similar scenario.

 

This tirade against Dhoni only grew louder with the series loss. Questions were asked about his future, and whether Indian cricket should already start planning for the 2019 ODI World Cup. Seriously? This, after he led the same team to the ODI World Cup semi-final not more than two months ago! And why wasn’t the process to start ‘planning for 2019’ mentioned after that tournament ended. More to the point, would the same questions be asked if India had won and not lost this series to Bangladesh?

The underlying point herein is that losing an odd series against our grown-up neighbours isn’t reason enough for mayhem in the form of conspiracy theories pouring out of the dressing room. Dhoni’s captaincy record in limited-overs is beyond any doubt, and this series is but a meaningless speck on it. For a country that judges its captains on their World Cup records, he has a T20 and an ODI one in his kitty, as well as other final and semi-final finishes in that same resume.  

Not to mention, Dhoni is still, unquestionably, a good limited-overs player. For the record, he finished the second-highest run-getter for India in the ODI series, fourth overall. Even if he were not the captain, he would still be in the side on merit alone, despite his recent dip in form.

As such, the baseless witch-hunt against him needs to stop. This is not someone who will overstay his welcome, as his shock Test retirement in Melbourne proved. He knows fully well that the clock is ticking and admitted after the semi-final loss in Sydney that the 2016 World T20 would be when he will judge his career.

For leading Indian cricket in the manner he has, since 2007, Dhoni deserves to be afforded that much time, and respect. Let’s leave him alone for a bit.

 

 

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