Calling the Right Shots: MSD is the Man

Posted: February 4, 2011 by thecognitivenomad in Cricket, India Cricket, Opinion
Tags: , , ,

Chandrasekhar Jayarama Krishnan

Head of Cricket, CouchExpert

4 February 2011

Indian cricket has hardly been without unpleasant instances of brusque departures of captains: not least when Mohammad Azharuddin was forced to walk out after a tryst with match-fixing, a series of incidents that left the global cricketing community embittered. Zonalism, politics and self-worth are not easily untangled, precisely explaining why mistrust had often been an element within the Indian cricketing scenario.

Captains have also often been known to under utilize players in the squad who they didn’t favor. A captain even as late as Saurav Ganguly was known for his suspected treatment of Sunil Joshi, where in the Karnataka spinner was just given two overs in a game, and also sent up the order against an attack where his batting wouldn’t speak for itself. Naturally, he failed to impress and slowly faded in to the wilderness.

Yet, the current Indian captain is one who trespassed the urge to establish the primacy of Indian cricket over the Imperialists. The T20 world cup victory in South Africa has taken Indian cricket a lot further than anyone could have ever imagined with the IPL being the greatest consequence. A bunch of raw, talented youngsters, under his leadership, proved their worth to bring home the trophy. It is very easy to forget how it all started.

MS Dhoni is a captain of great deeds, but confirmed greatness yet awaits him. He has undoubtedly been one of the better captains around since Stephen Fleming, who, in Shane Warne’s words could have made it to the World XI squad in lieu of his captaincy alone. Yet, Dhoni realizes that all this isn’t enough – not when half the nation looks to bite him over his suspected incorrect moves during various periods over the recently concluded series in South Africa. As the saying goes, when the game bites, it takes a huge chunk.

But that the meager voices in corners of India calling for a change in captaincy – on the old principle that people who live in glasshouses shouldn’t throw stones – is easy to gainsay. He’s never tried to reach beyond himself. For one, his penchant for moves from out of the blue – opening with off spinner R Ashwin, throwing the ball to Suresh Raina during a crucial period of play, restricting the Aussies to within 200 in a day on a Nagpur wicket to slow the rate down – are not remotely as ransom as they may seem.

He has always followed his instincts, and more often than not, has backed them up with phenomenal results. Yet, achieving what by far is one of the prouder results from outside the subcontinent, in a land where we have never fared well, goes for a toss. Cynics can be forgiven for disclosing the idle state of their common sense during that period, for I can only see the funny side of it.

In some ways, it is fair to say that Dhoni would have aptly fitted in as a captain during the earlier decades when the team didn’t boast of too many superstars. He’s definitely one of those guys who can portray a team which is significantly greater than the sum of its parts. It takes a shrewd mind to do that, and he is one of the best in the business.

Dhoni’s strokes of genius have often come during periods where India have looked pedestrian, during the course of a test match, after weathering long stretches of ineffectiveness. From out of the blue, a plot is devised, a trap is laid and a pretty scorecard turns its tables. Restricted menace in India’s bowling attacks have often meant that they are likely to be dominated eventually, but clever moves at the apt time have helped India stay way ahead of their game.

These days, the role of a captain is often underplayed. Back then, teams did not have a bunch of analysts with their laptops, cunningly devising a strategy to attack a player’s weakness. The simple and pure art of observation is a lost one, but a rare few have retained it – the subject of the topic being one of them.

Much can be extracted from the current make-up of the Indian squad, but one thought that reassures us every now and then, even if the cynics hate to admit it, is to have the rope tethered around Dhoni. Sure, his batting form hasn’t been the best of late but I’m one of those guys who’d love to believe that he’ll bring the best out of him, and the team, in front of the home crowds during cricket’s biggest event. He did it in South Africa during the inaugural World Cup pertaining to the shortest form of the game – it isn’t hard to imagine him repeating that feat in the upcoming tournament.

Its a shame that great performances alone go noticed in big tournaments, and captaincy is barely a fact that is stressed on. It’d be interesting to see how captains rally their teams this World Cup, for after a very long time, we see no clear favorites in the tournament. If there did exist a Captain of the Tournament award, I’d definitely put my money on MSD.

The thought of looking for an alternative captain, then, is an admission of having a potent weapon on the playing side and a tactically shrewd thinker on the mental side. The question is: is there an alternative? Quite vividly, I see no one. At least, not yet.

  1. goutham says:

    You bring out the various factors that make MSD successful as a captain. He realises that he has an average bowling side and is therefore practical with his field placements. Many times they are misconstrued as being defensive. Not that that argument lacks weightage, but often, he knows what he’s doing and is largely right.

    Like all captains he has his follies as well. But he sticks to his convictions and as a leader, that call lies with him. Just like Sourav was often criticized for his lack of faith in left-arm spinners, Dhoni has a fascination for them and rarely goes into one-day games in the subcontinent without one.

    In all, captaincy is an art. The better ones have a great feel for it – who can sense the game, the moment and seize it. You can’t question MSD for not having the feel for the game.

    Great work, as usual.

  2. Prasad Moyarath says:

    Dhoni has been on a dream run so far and there is no doubt that he always had experienced players around him. Now it is time to rebuild Indian team and that is where he will be tested. A dasher who was expected to be the next Gilchrist looks like a confused batsman now not knowing whether to attack or defend. The same confusion is reflecting in his decisions on and off the field. Also he don’t seem to have the support of other players like what Ganguly had.I am not sure whether he can rebuild a team like Ganguly did, after the exit of Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman.

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