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Dhoni is assertive but needs more balance
by Partab Ramchand
Feb 22, 2008
There are clear indications that MS Dhoni is getting to be increasingly assertive as Indian captain. Going by some of his recent utterances he certainly wants to show that he is the boss. He wanted a young squad for the CB series and got the team he wanted. It is always good to have a dynamic, no nonsense captain instead of a pliable, laidback one. Dhoni is the most intuitive captain since Kapil Dev. He himself has said he goes more by instinct when it comes to making a decision on the field or in picking a particular player.

There is nothing wrong with being an intuitive captain and in fact this is a welcome change from other Indian captains who were either unexciting or lean towards an over abundance of caution or theory. But bravado without much planning or without being able to keep a tight rein on the proceedings when the situation calls for it can lead to trouble. Sometimes it is better to adopt a more conservative approach rather than try and experiment unnecessarily as Dhoni is undoubtedly discovering.

Dhoni is also increasingly becoming his own man and is not afraid to speak his mind. For example while it is well known that Yuvraj Singh is potentially a great cricketer and the leader of the Generation Next of Indian batsmen no one should be made to feel that he is indispensable, that he will continue to be in the side come what may. Countering criticism of Yuvraj’s form following his deputy’s lean run Dhoni asserted that he would continue to be part of the team and play in all the games. He also defended Yuvraj’s lack of form and rather irresponsible approach to batting. Obviously this is wrong for the captain cannot decide beforehand that any particular player will figure in all matches irrespective of how he is faring. The team’s interests should always come first; besides such remarks can send wrong signals to other members of the side.

Dhoni was also needlessly harsh on young Rohit Sharma when he blamed the upcoming batsman for his run out in the match against Australia at Adelaide. Terming his dismissal as the turning point of the match he blamed Rohit who was running for his captain but could not make the ground. "It was a bad reaction from Rohit. Even with the cramps I could have run and made it easily," he said. Was he showing any care for the youngster’s feelings as he made those remarks?

The decision to promote Irfan Pathan repeatedly to No 3 was criticized when Greg Chappell first came up with this experiment. And Dhoni was palpably wrong in sending Pathan again at one drop in the game against Australia at Adelaide. Such unorthodox tactics should be applied when the target is on the high side. That’s when the side batting second has to gamble. Faced with a target of 204 there was no need for such an unconventional strategy and the normal batting order should have been followed. But again Dhoni defended the move to promote Pathan. ``Whether Irfan bats at No 3 or No 8 does not make much of a difference. I was quite happy with the batting order." Dhoni should realize that there is quite a difference between sending Pathan at No 3 and No 8. Pathan’s place is in the late order and it is better not to mess around with his career as Chappell did. Pathan is in the midst of a successful comeback and is aiming to find a niche as the long awaited all rounder and it is very important to let him progress along conventional lines.

Another player who came in for a lot of criticism but got nothing but praise from Dhoni was Munaf Patel. Defending his decision to play the extra bowler in Munaf the Indian captain said he ``needed a bowler who does not think too much and bowls according to the field." That remark is not exactly complimentary. Any cricketer worth his salt would like to think that he is a thinking bowler and that matters of strategy and tactics and planning to dismiss a batsman is as much a part of a bowler’s armory as his speed or stamina.

In this regard it would not be out of place to point out that Sunil Gavaskar lashed out at Munaf’s lackadaisical attitude on the field and suggested he should not have been included in the side. Furious with Munaf’s substandard fielding, the former Indian captain said he had no problems with Munaf as a bowler but felt the pacer was no batsmen and his fielding was abysmal. "If he is among the three regular bowlers it’s okay but Munaf does not deserve a place as the fourth bowler. He cannot bat and is useless as a fielder and in one-day cricket you need to do well in at least two aspects," Gavaskar said. "I don’t have anything against him. He is a good bowler. But his attitude on the field is just not right.’’

It’s difficult not to agree with Gavaskar’s viewpoint but obviously the Indian captain feels differently. It’s time Dhoni learnt that there is nothing wrong in saying that he made a mistake. Admitting your mistake is the first step towards rectifying it and there is no need for Dhoni to defend his decisions all the time. Anyone can make errors or incorrect decisions and there is no harm in admitting them. In the long run one can benefit from such an attitude as Dhoni will no doubt discover once he adopts it.

More Views by Partab Ramchand
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  Future of Indian cricket is in good hands
  Future bright for Irfan Pathan
  Basil D'Oliveira was a mighty fine utility player
  Ashwin is a stayer, not a sprinter!
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