Is MS Dhoni the problem? A fourth innings hypothesis test

Posted by
2 minute read

If you get the daily email from this site, you’ll already know whether India have made a decent fist of day five of the first Test against Australia. We’re writing this at the end of day four and have conflicting feelings about how things might pan out.

On the one hand, India’s tours to Australia and England over the last few years seem to have been characterised by the wheels falling off. It doesn’t always happen straight away – their win at Lord’s this summer was excellent – but wheellessness does tend to feel like an inevitability. Once off, the wheels roll away and maim children while MS Dhoni placidly looks on.

See something often enough and you become conditioned to expect it. India’s first innings 444 was a decent riposte to Australia’s 517-7 declared, but they now face 98 overs on the fifth day and it feels like they’ll be bowled out for 71 with the rest of the tour a painful purgatory where they’ll get to relive the misery again and again. That’s what normally happens.

On the other hand, India have looked an improving side for some time now and this XI in particular seems detached from its implosive predecessors. In England, the almost comically ineffectual Gautam Gambhir provided a link to previous touring sides but he’s gone now, as is Dhoni.

Dhoni has many qualities, some of which are even apparent in the Test format, but he has also gained an almost tangible air of blank-faced acquiescence on these tours. When the AI finds itself sinking towards an unwinnable position in a computer game, it doesn’t throw a strop and hit the reset button; it just plays on, emotionlessly, acceptant of its fate. That’s what Dhoni has become: an automaton with no white flag.

If this is unfair on a player who showed real grit with the bat in England, then perhaps we have to acknowledge that life is complex and no player is a wholly positive or negative influence. Perhaps we can even draw some conclusions based on India’s fourth innings performance. Is Dhoni himself the problem, or was he merely presiding over an Indian side that is the problem?


Mike Gatting wasn't receiving the King Cricket email when he dropped that ludicrously easy chance against India in 1993.


Why risk it when it's so easy to sign up?


  1. Regarding the badger, it’s interesting to see that Mitch Johnson considers himself personally to be a bowling unit. Guess he doesn’t rate Siddle, Harris, or Lyon much – which is strange because Lyon’s outbowled him so far.

    1. If UNIT means anything, surely it is that the thing so described is one individual thing. In maths a unit is 1. It’s not 1, 4, 19 and 6 all grouped together. So in that sense he might be right. On the other hand, perhaps he’s just confused because the coach once said “you nit” to him. That would also explain why he once described himself as a bowling utattooedinconsistentoaf.

  2. Ive always felt that Dhonis limitations as a player in overseas Tests affected his general confidence, and consequently his authority and proactiveness as a captain.

    India’s never going to be able to be a serious contender without a stronger bowling attack, but Kohli should at least be able to inspire and demand more of his batsmen.

    1. Dhoni was one of the standout performers in England earlier this year. Didn’t seem to help his cause much.

  3. “If you get the daily email from this site, you’ll already know whether India have made a decent fist of day five of the first Test against Australia”

    I’ve just signed up for the e-mail – will I find out how the fifth day goes in time to go to the bookies before the fifth day starts?

    1. You will find that you know at some point during the night – possibly while you’re asleep.

    2. My Psychic Badger has just arrived. India won with six overs left in the day. Kohli had set them up nicely with a run-a-ball century, but it got very tense towards the end. Wickets fell quickly after tea, but Rahane and Shami saw them over the line with a couple of wickets to spare. Also, there was a front-foot no-ball on the second ball of the thirty-fifth over of the day.

      Sorry if that’s spoiled it for anyone.

    3. Psychic badgers? Sounds like the premise for a B-movie horror film. “In Soviet Russia, Badgers Cull You…”

    4. I’d be seriously suspicious if anyone had delivered a back-foot no ball. Not even young Amir was that far over.

  4. Compton back to Middlesex?

    That’ll make for an attractive opening pair with Robson.

    Or an effective one, at least.

    1. Masterstroke.

      Imagine what might happen if Leicestershire were to attract its prodigal sons back, daneel.

  5. Cook:

    ‘I’m a better player than I’m showing at the moment, and I’ve just got to keep going. I know it’s a real cliché, but I’m actually hitting the ball quite nicely in the nets.’

    1. Peter Moores’ “equivocal support” for Cook infers the serious possibility of ODI “reggie” between now and the World Cup.

      Bizarre timing, as the time for ODI reggie was surely no later than September – indeed probably before the summer ODI series with India.

      Better late than never I suppose.

      England consistently places supreme ODI importance on the World Cups – a policy with which I concur. Yet England consistently mistimes its changes and developments to near perfection, getting better at precisely the wrong stage of the four year cycle.

      This phenomenon of incompetence, at least five full cycles / i.e. 20 years or more old, is a wonder to behold. If they were trying to do it deliberately, it almost certainly couldn’t be achieved.

    2. It betrays a fundamental lack of conviction. In a shaky relationship, uncertainty reaches a tipping point the closer the wedding day gets.

Comments are closed.