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Is Dhoni's unimaginative captaincy costing India Tests abroad?


Nitin Chouhan,Cricketnext
Jan 03, 2014 at 04:43pm IST

We have often heard people sing praises of Mahendra Singh Dhoni for what he has achieved as India captain over the years. And quite rightly so. The 32-year-old rose from oblivion to reach the top echelons of India as well as world cricket. In the last six years, Dhoni helped India win all the major ICC trophies on offer; starting with the triumph at 2007 T20 World Cup, and following it up with victories at the 50-over World Cup in 2011 and the Champions Trophy in 2013.

Under Dhoni, India also reached the top of the Test rankings; the status that they achieved by playing most Tests at home. But it was followed by back-to-back drubbings in England and Australia, which had put some serious questions over Dhoni's ability to lead the side for five days in alien conditions.

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The recently-concluded South Africa tour was the first away series India played since the unforgettable Aussie summer that ended in January 2012. In between, they played four series at home, beating New Zealand 2-0, losing to England 2-1, beating Australia 4-0 and defeating West Indies 2-0. The SA trip was the first real test for the side which saw the last of their batting greats - Sachin Tendulkar - bidding adieu to cricket.

Is Dhoni's unimaginative captaincy costing India Tests abroad?

Some tactical errors by Dhoni not only took away any chance of winning in Johannesburg, but it also cost India the series in Durban. (Getty Images)

And to their credit, the young Indian side did a creditable job in the first Test in Johannesburg, having lost the preceding ODI series 2-0. Quite contrary to the beliefs of many, India's young batsmen showed a lot of gumption against, arguably, the fiercest bowling attack in the world.

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Any team, who are dubbed as poor travellers and has not tasted much success abroad in the recent past, would have seen it as a real chance to redeem themselves. But some tactical errors not only took away the chance of winning in Johannesburg, but also cost them the series in Durban.

Blunders at Wanderers:

India sniffed a victory on the fourth day of the first Test when South Africa needed 320 more runs to win going into the fifth day. With runs to play, Dhoni first attacked too much, which back-fired and then he went on the defensive, seeing his team could lose the match.

Instead of bowling with Mohammed Shami, who was the most impressive among the three Indian seamers, he persisted with Zaheer Khan for eight overs at a stretch after tea. Those who watched the game would know that the game ended in draw not because of Dhoni's 'impressive' captaincy, but because of South Africa's lack of courage to go for a victory.

The second new ball conundrum at Durban:

South Africa were still 35 runs behind on day three, with the second new ball already being due for over 24 overs. Instead of opting for the new cherry straight away on day four, Dhoni decided to continue with the old ball, which quite clearly had lost its bite by then. It gave Jacques Kallis, who was playing his farewell Test, time to get set.

Dhoni persisted with the same old ball for 146 overs before finally deciding to go for the new one. But, by then, South Africa were already in a commanding position. India went on to lose that match by ten wickets and the series.

Poor batting form:

Although effective on flat sub-continent tracks, Dhoni's batting technique gets exposed in conditions where the bowlers get a bit of swing or seam movement. The Indian captain could manage only 87 runs in two Tests, averaging 21.75 in four innings. India needed him to stay on the wicket in both Tests, but he threw his wicket away at crucial moments.

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