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By Partab Ramchand
So MS Dhoni has gone from the man with the Midas touch to the man who can do little right. From a popular, charismatic and winning personality he is now the loser whom everyone is pointing fingers at. Well, if it is of some comfort he is in good company.
Ajit Wadekar waved to a cheering Oval crowd in 1971 and his boys were given a ticker tape welcome from the airport to the Brabourne stadium after his team scored a historic series triumph in England. Three years later following a 3-0 clean sweep that the Indian team suffered in England under his captaincy his house was stoned and the huge India bat erected in honour of the 1971 victory was defaced. Kapil Dev is another who has got the `treatment’ – both ways. In June 1983 he proudly held aloft the World Cup after India’s gloriously unexpected victory in the final against the formidable West Indies. Six months later the bus carrying him and his team was stoned at Calcutta after a humiliating Test series defeat at the hands of the same opponents.
Dhoni himself got the motorcade reception when he and his boys won the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup in South Africa four years ago. One only hopes that he and his team do not get the other side of the treatment on their return from England. Dhoni has already experienced to some extent the negative `impact’ for after all he has been the captain of the Twenty20 squad that was eliminated at the Super Eight stage in two successive World Cups in England and the West Indies.
But then that’s the way it is as far as Indian cricket is concerned. There is always the imbalanced reaction to victory or defeat. Win and be covered with glory and gifts; lose and be hauled over the coals. Equanimity and a true perspective is hardly ever maintained and given this background the latest reaction to the losses suffered at Lord’s and Trent Bridge is perhaps expected given the exalted status that cricket enjoys in the country.
For all the loss of form displayed by some team members, the lack of preparation, the absence of certain key players and the formidable opposition, the buck stops with the captain. Dhoni happily is not the kind who offers excuses. On the contrary he is willing to own up responsibility. For all his excellent record in all three formats of the game it must be said that when a captain enjoys success over an extended period there is also more than just an element of luck involved. Wadekar enjoyed a great deal of good fortune during his triumphant years of 1971 – 1973 but luck turned on him with a vengeance in England in 1974. Everything that could do wrong went wrong and this is a mantra that Dhoni himself has repeated on the current tour.
But then adversity brings out the best in a leader and in this context the ongoing series could well be the supreme test of Dhoni’s skills as captain. After all everything has not yet been lost. There is still time for the team to stage a recovery, level the series and retain their No 1 ranking. With the Indians at full strength at both Edgbaston and the Oval they can hopefully turn the tables on England. But for this to happen Dhoni has to display the leadership qualities that have helped other captains dig deep in their reserves and inspire their teams to make a strong comeback. Indian teams have in the past rallied from 0-2 down and Dhoni can perhaps draw inspiration from these examples.