India-South Africa Series Recap: Dhoni’s Captaincy Unimpressive

Posted: January 26, 2011 by The CouchExpert in Cricket, India Cricket, India in South Africa 2010-11, Opinion, Series
Tags: ,

Srikrishnan Chandrasekaran


26 January 2011

I have been watching cricket over last two decades and am a great fan of Indian cricket. I am sharing my comments on how I look at each game in the last series in SA and what ways we could have improved / done well. There will be definitely other cricket fans who will disagree to my comments, but this is something what I feel they can improve on.

MS Dhoni: Too defensive?

—This was one of India’s better performances on SA soil. In short, India played better cricket than SA in the whole series (Test, ODI, and T20). They gave a very good fight and managed a decent show.

—The top order of Indian team batting line-up failed to show their strength in both ODI and Tests. There had been few notable performances in the bowling department, but they should have done better in their batting. This Test team is one of the best Indian sides in recent years and they had a good opportunity to win the series on SA soil, but their inconsistent batting and inefficient captaincy gave an edge to SA in making it 1-1 easily and also win the ODI series.

—Looking at the each day’s play closer with session-to-session, it was not really as tough a series as expected. India would have outplayed SA if Dhoni had put some effort in being more aggressive with his captaincy. He is not as attacking captain as other Indian captains of yesterday, but one should at least make an attempt to learn something either by experience or looking at the way the past cricket captains’ performances.

Below are some of the highlights where Dhoni should have taken a much better decision than he eventually did

Test Matches:

1. Should have attacked SA batsmen in 1st innings of 1st Test, especially on Harbhajan’s bowling.
2. Should have shown some amount of fighting spirit in the South African 2nd innings of the 3rd Test. By setting a field of 5 fielders outside the ring in a Test match will allow the opponent to play comfortably. At one instance, it given a feel like 3rd test involved some match fixing. Kallis was not comfortable playing, but there is no effort from Dhoni to put pressure on him.
3. When you have bowler with 300+ Test wickets, one should have three fielders round the batsmen irrespective of match condition. Spreading a field will not give any confidence to the bowler. If Dhoni had bothered to set even a 10% attacking field while Boucher-Kallis were batting, I think we would have easily won the Test series
4. It looked at one point, Dhoni was not interested in bowling out the opposition as Indian team would be in trouble if the target was less than 200 with 120+ overs to bat on.


1. As a captain Dhoni should have tried to stay till the end of match in the 3rd ODI. There is much to learn even looking at Botha on how he likes to stay at the crease.
2. In the 4th ODI, he should have brought in front-line bowlers when SA lost 5 wickets for 140-odd. As an outsider, I can very well judge Duminy is good against spinners, it was really bad to see Dhoni bowl the spinners at him till he got settled.
3. In the same game, while chasing their target and there was possible chance of rain later that night, why didn’t the middle-order batsmen try to stay on for some period in the middle when Kohli is playing a superb innings?
4. In the 5th ODI, again after the loss of de Villiers when Duminy walked in, no fast bowler was brought into the attack. If Dhoni is so confident on the spinners, at least he would have tried with pace at one end. Zaheer bowled exceptionally well against left-handers. It was very difficult to understand the strategy of Dhoni in not bringing Zaheer on with the series up for grabs.
5. When everyone clearly knows it’s going to rain heavily during 2nd half of the day, no body in the world will win the toss and elect to field especailly with the D/L method in place. It gives a feel like Dhoni had decided not to win the series when he sent the opponent in after winning the toss.
6. While chasing a mammoth total (also since we didn’t scored more than 225 in the series), one would have tried with pinch hitters especially Harbhajan / Zaheer. These 2 players are sometimes more sensible than the top-order players. No idea why Dhoni came at no. 4 only thrown his wicket.

In short, it is really Dhoni’s incapability of captaining the side that has lost the opportunity of winning both the Test series and ODI series.  In my view, the selectors should think whether Dhoni should continue leading the side. I am unable to recollect if there has been an instance wherein Dhoni has led India to win a series with his captaincy skills alone.

Appreciate your patience on reading this post!

  1. goutham says:

    Srik, this is the fan talking and not the analyst. In any case, knowing you, it wasn’t going to be different than what you have written here.

    Your deep-rooted comments reflect the sentiments of many hardcore cricket followers. Share your thoughts often.

  2. Sujan says:

    Nice analysis!

  3. Nagaraj says:

    Sri, Your observations are interesting when looked from Dhoni’s Captaincy performance. Nevertheless he is blessed with good team combination, perhaps.

  4. Chandra says:

    Whoa, haven’t you micro-examined every action on the field! Very commendable, and I’m quite impressed with the way you’ve recollected and penned down incidents that you feel weren’t exactly MSD backing-worthy.

    The easiest thing to do would be to acknowledge your arguments here, although your last sentence on recollecting an instance where MSD’s captaincy acted as a prime-mover towards obtaining a favorable result is harsh. I’ll look forward to penning a piece on captaincy sometime, and we could take this discussion forward.

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