There were times last summer, during the England v India test series, when I wondered whether MS Dhoni had lost it completely.
Times like when he stood back to the spinner, much to the utter befuddlement of almost everyone (including Nasser Hussain and Shane Warne on commentary) and, even worse, he barely even bothered to move to take some deliveries and fielding returns. It looked like he simply couldn’t be bothered to raise his arm to stop the ball.
Admittedly, he livened up again for the ODI series, as he often does. But it struck me, as he watched some more byes fly past with a total lack of concern on his face, that he had actually bought in to his public and media image of Captain Cool, and bought into it so much that he was now playing it cool, even when the situation demanded action. He had joined Chris Gayle in the ‘too cool to be seen to be making an effort’ gang.
The thumb injury that is keeping him out of the Sri Lanka ODIs and first test against Australia will give him – and India – time to take stock. India can now, perhaps, finally see a Dhoni-free future. For so long, he has been the glue holding the team together, the bridge between generations, the calmness around the impetuosity of the young bucks.
For many years, we have been astonished by the composure with which Dhoni greeted the vicissitudes of international cricket. Whether India has won emphatically or lost embarrassingly, his press conferences and interviews are measured affairs, his temperament – like his batting when he has an ODI to win – ice-cool.
This coolness has also always been apparent on the pitch. However, of late there has been something different about it. His calmness has become very studied, very deliberate. Martin Crowe’s excellent article on the masks we wear comes to mind – Dhoni has become his mask of coolness. His persona has overtaken his personality.
The danger is that his coolness no longer belies the fire inside but that it has extinguished it.
I’m glad he’s got a sore thumb. He needs a rest. He is still a remarkable cricketer and though the next generation is nearly ready to take the reins, India – and all cricket fans – are surely not done with him yet. Relieve some of his burden, let him remember his passion, let’s see the fire burn again.
I thought Dhoni lost the plot in the 20/20 at Edgbaston, when he refused runs in the final over to remain on strike and India lost by 3 runs. I believe his days are numbered – we shall see.
Yes, that was indeed another ‘he’s lost it’ moment. Again, believing his own publicity, I think.
Dhoni came up with a reason for standing back in the press conference afterwards – he was saying how he wanted two leg gullies but he couldn’t (as he didn’t want to sacrifice the short fine leg) so stood back so he could run forward to fine leg if required. Strange home remedy and very possibly an ‘after the event’ justification for forgetting/not remembering to move forward/losing it.
Perhaps Dhoni is suffering from the KP malaise – let’s not forget Dhoni plays more international cricket than anyone else (KP was a close second). Isn’t Dhoni so highly revered he was made a god in one Indian village? And he’s been made an honorary lieutenant in the Indian Army – imagine if that happened to one of our boys in England!!! It must be difficult being put on such a high pedestal – Sachin managed it but then, he wasn’t captain. And the reverence never got to Sachin’s head, whilst I think it may have got to Dhoni’s.
Dhoni has performed some amazing feats as a wicket keeper but yes, standing back to a keeper was a little ‘experimental’ and more suited to a Saturday 3rd XI league game. Someone should tell him to stop playing so much – get Kholi in as captain for test matches and the Indians will see a future post-Dhoni.
The Indian’s total capitulation in the 2014 test series was an absolute disgrace to test cricket. They should have been fined for it – total disrespect to fans and to those who paid for 4th day tickets! Why were they so poor? Had they just given up? Do they hate test matches so much they just wanted the games to end quickly?
Nick, do you have the answers?!
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Thanks for the comment Sandip. I agree that Dhoni would be best suited packing in the Tests and having a few years more ODIs and T20s.
The summer’s Indian capitulation was indeed shocking, and predicated, I think, on Dhoni’s lack of interest/energy and also the wholly unexpected failure of Kohli and Pujara. Given how they played in India last time we played them, it wouldn’t be a surprise to speculate that there may have been an assumption of success i.e. complacency. The bowling was always going to struggle but the batsmen shouldn’t have.