Dhoni must wear his thinking hat
Like a silver lining among the grey clouds is the thought that the ODI series could not possibly go worse than the Test series. God who must be an Englishman rained on India’s parade in the first ODI even as the team was poised to break its duck that day.
If the no-result itself meant a big result it simply symbolised how much the Indians have suffered on the tour of the Old Blighty. But no excuses at all because the team was so ill prepared for the Test tour as to have been the worst of no-hopers among Indian teams since 1974.
The general helplessness of the situation was stressed in defeat in the second ODI although by reducing the contest to near T20 proportions God may still have tended to favour the current world T20 champions who made light of a stiff target. That just went to show how toothless the attack is even as the batsmen are at last making par scores.
To hark back to the ’70s, Ajit Wadekar’s team had just returned home as the conquerors of the West Indies and England after the summer of 1971 and since England had just beaten Australia Down Under it did seem we had gone some way up the Test ladder then. And since Tony Lewis’ side was no match for India on a few designer tuners in 1972-73, Wadekar was on top of the world.
What should come along then than but a wet and miserable tour of England and a 3-0 result, including the rout at Lord’s that lent the season the funny name of the ‘Summer of 42’ after a popular movie of the time, which curiously portrayed young love by the beach. And the fickle public threw stones at Wadekar’s residence.
The irony must have been stark for a man and his team who had a few years before then had been given a ticker tape welcome in Mumbai. While Dhoni does not have to expect such extremes as sticks and stones on arrival in India, he might at least start behaving like a responsible captain and taking greater interest in Team India affairs.
I know he used to have such little time in his rock star lifestyle that he had no time ever to pick up his phone and speak to the chairman of selectors. Top Board officials would also struggle to get a word with him over the air waves even though he always kept his appointments for selection committee meetings.
To be fair to his team and to put Team India back on the rails after the England tour, Dhoni would have to pay far more attention to the management of workload on various top players. The Board must involve Dhoni in a managerial capacity if it is not to hear him parrot the lines at press conferences about excessive cricket. As the prominent personality around whom Indian cricket would have to rebuild in the next few years, Dhoni has to be seen doing more thinking on behalf of Team India.
Indian cricket needs a credible rotation policy but an ideal one would be really hard to define. Apart from sparing Dhoni some workload as his three-in-one role as batsman, wicket keeper and captain tends to take a lot more out of him emotionally and physically, BCCI would have to treat him with kid gloves.
As a pivotal player he has to play all formats but the selectors can help here by relieving him of some of his keeping duties in ODIs and T20s. But it can’t afford to let loose a cricketer who once skipped a Test tour of Sri Lanka claiming fatigue, which of course was before he became captain. Regardless of how the last three ODIs go, it is clear Dhoni would have to go back to the drawing room with the think tank to pull his team out of the abyss.