Here’s a question: can you lead by example if no-one follows that example? If there’s no-one behind you, you’re not really leading, are you? You’re just ambling around on your own while everyone else sits around having cakes and tea.
In the first innings at Old Trafford, MS Dhoni played with grit and resolve and showed the way for the rest of his team. No-one followed him. In the second innings, they buckled like a belt.
Here at the Oval, he made 82 out of 148. You could call it a captain’s innings, but that perhaps highlights just how meaningless that phrase is.
You wonder whether Ishant Sharma’s ‘sore leg’ might have resulted from his workload. And how did Bhuvneshwar Kumar look in the third Test, MS?
“I think Bhuvi seemed to be a bit tired.”
Maybe you shouldn’t have picked just the four bowlers then.
“In the first couple of games we played with that extra bowler, who was part of the side. But we never really used him to that extent, giving him only eight to 10 overs. That’s the reason we thought of making our batting stronger by getting Rohit in.”
If only someone, somewhere had the power to ask a fifth bowler to deliver more overs.
Might as well call for at least one of the captains to be sacked.
His batsmen have crumbled against bowling they should be comfortable against, his senior players aren’t ‘standing up’, he’s insisting on fielding a part-time spinner instead of a specialist and he hasn’t made a hundred in his last 20 Test innings. He has to take responsibility for these things.
It’s the young, inexperienced players who are showing the way. It’s time to move on.
It’s not just us saying this. Someone who once played cricket internationally has also criticised Dhoni’s captaincy for some reason – possibly to do with tactics. They said they’d have done things differently and that what they’d have done would have worked, unlike what Dhoni did. It’s hard, if not impossible, to argue with that.
When will the BCCI finally accept that this team is at a low ebb and acknowledge that it is time for change?
After winning the previous Test with four-and-a-bit bowlers, India could have gone either way for this one. Unsurprisingly, they went with four bowlers, not five.
Sometimes you can determine a lot from these fifty-fifty calls and MS Dhoni does seem to be a bit of a ‘pick the extra batsman’ kind of bloke. He doesn’t mind picking five bowlers every now and again (just so long as at least two of the bowlers are also credible batsmen) but you can tell he’s a lot more comfortable once the team’s back to normal, even if that means losing.
Dhoni captains his team as if runs win matches. This is all well and good in the shorter formats where runs are indeed the unit of currency, but in Test cricket runs merely prevent you from losing. To win, you need to take wickets. What message does picking six batsmen send to the opposition?
Why those five runs mattered
When you’re dismissed for 95, one crucial thing does not change. People can still say: “He hasn’t made a hundred since…”
Right now, on the day he made 95, we all know that Alastair Cook played an innings that was tantamount to a hundred. However, in about a fortnight, when it’s no longer fresh in the mind, people will say: “He hasn’t made a hundred since…” and it will seem that nothing has changed.
It’s also important to note how ludicrous it is that this innings will to some degree shore up his captaincy credentials when it had precisely ball-all to do with the aspect of captaincy he most struggles with, which is of course ‘captaincy’.
‘At least Ballance is still in’
Come on, admit it. You’re starting to think that too now. That constantly snarling facial expression is embedding itself in your brain and becoming just another part of your everyday life, like drinking tea or sighing each morning at the sheer pointlessness of it all.
This England team isn’t the most popular, but you can’t fault Jimmy Anderson for that. He’s waging a one-man willow-wielding war on unpopularity this summer. You wouldn’t think it possible to improve on his efforts against Sri Lanka, but at Trent Bridge, against India, he may well have managed it.
But there’s another story here. It’s the story of two captains who like to stick to what’s not working until they’re absolutely convinced that it will never, ever, in a million years work. And then they give it just three more overs – just in case.
When it comes to last wicket partnerships in this Test, Alastair Cook and MS Dhoni have delivered an absolute noviceclass. To sum up how resistant they are to evidence, we can easily imagine them spending long hours pushing doors marked ‘pull’, confidently thinking to themselves: “Pretty soon this is going to come good.”
That’s a reference to his name cropping up in talk of IPL match fixing and the fact that he’s won 12 international tosses in a row, including all of them on this tour of New Zealand (without yet winning a match). Top tossing, Mahendra. Top tossing.
Even if the perfect toss record continues, the winless streak might end, as India are in a very strong position after day one of the second Test. Ross Taylor’s missus has a lot ot answer for. He’s away for the birth of a new Taylor and New Zealand’s seemingly-resilient middle-order looked rather more wonky without him. Kane Williamson couldn’t even benefit from twice being dismissed off a no-ball.
As for the match-fixing thing, is anyone else surprised by how little coverage there’s been, even if things haven’t yet got past the question marks in headlines stage.
India’s Champions Trophy victory presents a good opportunity to bring this post about Twenty20 wicketkeeping to prominence once again. In a 20-over match, two of England’s top three were stumped by MS Dhoni and he could conceivably have had a third dismissal of that nature towards the end of the innings.
There were several pivotal events during the match, but you can certainly argue that Dhoni’s performance was match-winning, even though he didn’t score a single run. Set aside the debates about whether certain batsmen should or shouldn’t have been given out. Credit to Dhoni for giving the third umpire those decisions to make in the first place.
In low-scoring matches, the margins are finer. Byes are costly and missed catches are debilitating while a conjured stumping can all but decide a match. A makeshift keeper is something akin to a false economy.
This isn’t meant as an attack on Jos Buttler, by the way. He’s a cracking batsman and we feel he deserves his place in the side. His dismissal was as bad as anyone’s but if you want a reason for it, look to the fact that this was only his 14th one-day international (ODI). In a difficult final, the batsmen who did okay were Virat Kohli (103 ODIs), Ravindra Jadeja (70 ODIs), Eoin Morgan (102 ODIs) and Ravi Bopara (89 ODIs). In fact, Bopara’s confidence during the match is a good example of how a seemingly mentally fragile player can grow more robust with experience. Dhoni has played 224 ODIs, incidentally.
While confidence is hugely beneficial, skill is vital and Buttler’s keeping is not yet anywhere near Dhoni’s. Perhaps we should celebrate the fact that the team with the proper keeper won a global tournament.
If we had to sum up the opinions aired regarding Dhoni’s captaincy yesterday, it basically boils down to something like: “Yes, he could do a bit more to support and encourage his bowlers, but it probably doesn’t matter all that much because they’d still be pretty middling even then – plus he’s good in other ways.”
Like scoring 224 with fine style in order to make the opposition bowling attack look even more limited than your own. This isn’t technically captaincy, but people still label it ‘leading by example,’ which basically just involves doing anything good while you happen to be captain.
For Australia, Moises Henriques has again scored runs – which is just as well, because nobody else did. Allied to the one wicket that he took, he increasingly looks like a Test number seven who might take the odd wicket – a slot that Australia have been desperate to fill for some time, along with all the others.
Speaking about captaincy in his interview with the Guardian, Ian Chappell said:
“I also felt – and I think this is overlooked a bit – that it was your job to make the cricket interesting for the players. In doing that, you get the best out of your best players. If you make it dull and bloody boring for them, they’ll just go through the motions.”
When we read that, MS Dhoni immediately came to mind. You don’t think of him as being a boring player – certainly not in in his younger days – but his captaincy can seem really insipid, particularly in Tests and even more so when the match is getting away from him.
Dhoni’s supporters will say that he has to captain within his means; that he has to set defensive fields because of the bowlers he has at his disposal. But how much does the captain’s approach and attitude affect how those bowlers perform?
It isn’t about setting defensive fields, necessarily. It’s about setting interesting fields and asking the batsmen different questions. That can keep bowlers engaged and motivated where the same-old, same-old will not.
Is this unfair? Do you think Dhoni’s a predictable captain? Do you think he creates an environment where his players sometimes merely go through the motions?
To fall one centimetre short of a hundred is probably a little bit irritating. MS Dhoni is doubtless wishing he had longer arms.
We quite like a 99 and to be run out is the best way to do it. There’s a sort of soiled majesty about it – so much hard work ending with a smeared frontage and a bit of choice language.
MS Dhoni is a run out for 99 kind of batsman. We mean that as a compliment. He doesn’t play to build himself flattering statisics. He plays to win.
Today Dhoni hit a fifty, which is neither here nor there. Today Dhoni put India in a very good position, which is significant.