Thursday, January 10, 2013

Blaming Dhoni for India’s ODI debacle is the easy way out

Recently, there has been a lot of criticism of Indian captain MS Dhoni. Whether it is Test, ODIs or T20, whenever India loses a match, he is the first and sometimes the only person who is blamed. 
Some of the complaints are fair but mostly it’s over the top. As we know, being an Indian captain is one of the toughest jobs in the world. You are always under severe scrutiny, your every move will be judged. If it works, then all is ok (in Dhoni’s case, it’s luck) and if it doesn't then only God can save you.

I can understand when people want him to be replaced in Tests, because the Indian team is doing very badly there. That 0-8 drubbing and losing to England at home after 27 years is no joke, it’s a serious matter and even Dhoni’s performance with the bat is not up to the mark. Apart from that 99 in his last innings, I don’t remember any rescuing acts from him in the longer format.
But, as far as limited overs cricket and especially ODIs are concerned, he has been brilliant throughout his career. He is among the world’s best finishers in this format today, if not the best, and when you look at his batting stats since the 2011 World Cup, they are just amazing.
Yes, we are not winning as many ODI matches as we used to and we recently lost a series to our arch-rivals Pakistan, that too on our home turf and till the last hour of the last match, many people including some ex-cricketers wanted him to give up the captaincy in all formats. Call it miracle or luck (as they say), India won the match and Dhoni survived big criticism.
India’s poor performance in ODIs is not limited to one or two series’, if you look at our performance since the World Cup, you will find that we haven’t won any big series or tournaments. We lost the 5-match series in England, failed to qualify for Finals in Australia, lost to Bangladesh and that ended our campaign in Asia Cup.
But, today, I want to ask some questions, is blaming only MS Dhoni for India’s ODI debacle fair? Should we point our fingers to his commitment? Do we expect him to win us the matches all on his own? What about the other players? Isn’t cricket a team game?
To clarify my point further, I am throwing up some stats:-
Looking at the chart above, you will find that after the 2011 World Cup, only Virat Kohli has performed better than MS Dhoni. 1,062 runs at a staggering average of 88.50 and at a strike-rate of 90.69 becomes more valuable when you consider India’s performance during this period.
Yes, Suresh Raina is second in the most runs scored chart for India but he has played 13 more innings than Dhoni and scored just 16 runs more in this period. Now, look at our openers’ performance, Gambhir has runs but his average isn’t that great, same case with Sehwag. These stats are enough to tell you that we are not getting starts, a good platform from our openers in recent times. And when an inconsistent player like Rohit Sharma is among your top 5 run-scorers, you know how you are doing.
Selectors have taken some big decisions, like dropping Sehwag and bringing Pujara in. Hope it will send a message to players like Gambhir and Rohit. You can’t take your place for granted.
Indian cricket is going through a transition period and Dhoni’s role becomes even more crucial now. It doesn’t matter what his critics are saying at the moment, but in my opinion, MS Dhoni is still the best person to captain India as far as ODIs are concerned.

Update: Good point by Mayank Jhaveri on twitter:

(This article was first published on Sportskeeda)

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