He has won the T20 and ODI World Cups!
He has won the IPL 2 times out of 4 with Chennai Super Kings!
He has won the Champions League!
He has taken India to the no 1 ranking in Test cricket!
He has never lost a test series in his reign as skipper for more than 3 years!
You would believe that Dhoni could do no wrong. Opposition captains and former players call him the guy with the midas touch. There are people who say he has something which every other leader doesnt – An ability to stay cool and calm under pressure. Whether it is asking Joginder Sharma to bowl the final over in the T20 final or asking Bollinger to take the final over against a rampaging Pollard in the 2010 IPL, his mind has been as relaxed as could have been. Obviously with such praises, there are many who try to downplay his achievements by saying that he has the trinity for company or that he doesn’t have technical competence (referring to helicopter shots and so on).
But now he is in the midst of the biggest crisis of his life. Probably the biggest because this series between the top 2 test playing nations has not really looked looked that way. As they say cricket can be such a leveller that no one remembers the World Cup triumph now. There have been injuries aplenty from the first day of the series. Batsman have looked out of sorts against the short pitched deliveries bringing back memories of the 90s. Injuries have reduced us to a 3 – man bowling attack which considering the fact that England bat till number 10 was a disaster waiting to happen. Then the absence of Sehwag at the top and you wonder what could go wrong has gone wrong.
But probably the worst criticism has been saved for Dhoni. With 49 runs from 4 innings, he has a strike rate just higher than Ishant Sharma. He doesn’t have a century in the last 16 innings in 25 games. His wicketkeeping has been heavily criticised in the seaming and swinging conditions of England where he isn’t able to judge a ball’s trajectory properly. His average in Tests has dipped alarmingly to below 40 and he isn’t anywhere close to the best test wicketkeeper batsman which many thought him to be.
The biggest problem is the absence of Dhoni – the destructive self, the one who appeared on the scene years back. Today he is looking to the stabilize the innings in between but that’s not working out against the swinging deliveries. And his dismissal (not offering a shot) in the 2nd innings at Trent Bridge summarized the problems of the Indian team. His captaincy has been panned by critics with relation to field placements. He has also been alleged to have made a mockery of test cricket by bowling himself in the 1st test!
History is proof of India’s comeback in the 2nd tests of series across the spectrum. But this time its been different. India are in danger of losing their no 1 crown. The problem is that this is not a bad team but an underprepared one. There would be the IPL over country debate for players like Sehwag, Zaheer, Gambhir etc. While for Dhoni, there could be a debate of too much cricket which includes IPL and even the West Indies tour after that. He is fatigued and that’s well understood.
But you can consider him down and out only at your own peril. He is a fighter and will surely fight back.
Update – With Zak, Viru and Gauti coming back, I am hoping and praying now is the time the test series begins!