Why

Why

Saturday, 20 October 2012

DIFFERENT CAPTAINS FOR DIFFERENT FORMATS: INDIAN CRICKET STORY


Usain Bolt proved it once again at the recently concluded Olympics that he is no fluke. The performances he put up at the Beijing Olympics were just the starting point and over the last few years he has consistently shown that he is a short-distance legend. Well, he can only get better in terms of performance as even if he fails to make a mark in the next Olympics and other World Championships, he will still be known as a ‘top performer’.  Ask him to prove his credentials in middle-distance or a marathon, I do not think he will be right up there. But hey, this isn’t a conclusion - But having been part of two sessions with him, it is unlikely he is going to change his line and would stick to short-distance blasts. It is a simply a matter of choice to maintain optimum performance and to stay at the top of your game consistently.

I am looking at the state of our Indian captain and how he has been faring in the last few months. What can I talk about his credentials? He won the first T20 World Cup as a captain; he led the side that was crowned as #1 side in both Tests and ODI’s and not to forget the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2011. In domestic cricket, barring T20 he has not been active in any of the other formats. He has led Chennai Super kings pretty well and till date remains the only captain who has captained a franchise for five years straight. In short, since 2007 he has been a captain in T20s and ODIs for India; from 2008 October he has been captaining in all the 3 formats. It has been four years, non-stop action for him with small breaks here and there. No other player in international cricket had this kind of a schedule in the last four years; and plus he is a wicket-keeper and one of the key batsman in the team. Does he deserve a break? You bet!!!

What lies ahead? – M.S. Dhoni might be looking at 2015 World Cup and nothing more beyond it. It might not be a surprise if he decides to opt out of cricket completely before that. Personal choice must always be respected, but if the choice is based upon the factor of ‘burn out’ then the whole system must be introspected. You don’t want to lose a player of his calibre or for that matter any good player in that way and it must also not reach a stage where he is in side only as a captain. 

Transition is the essence and it can be brought about slowly instead of making any drastic changes.
A lot of them have suggested changing the captaincy? Is it because of results? I do not think that is the right way to look at it. You do not need to change a captain just because of results – A captain is a mere reflection of the team he possesses, nothing more. A good captain is separated from a great captain in terms of his vision and how does he use the resources available to him. As the results have been inconsistently for the past 18 months, is it time to remove M.S. Dhoni as captain and put Virat Kohli instead, as everything seems to be going correct with that guy at the moment? A very tempting proposition, but must be looked at from close quarters.

This is how I look at it – Cricket captains over the last decade have had many challenges than their predecessors. A lot of them had to adapt to the increase in volume of T20 cricket in addition to ODI’s and Test cricket. I cannot think of any other captain but Dhoni who has managed the transition quite well, but like Ian Chappell once famously mentioned, I am beginning to think – Has Dhoni reached his used by date as a captain? Does it affecting him perform better by being the captain for all the 3 formats?

This is what I asked myself and I was not looking at stats to come up with a case for Dhoni. After constant arguments within myself over past two days, I still feel he has few years (2-3 years) captaincy left in him, but it might not be in the manner he is going at the moment. With the cricket schedule only getting stiffer and to add other commitments off the field, things are not going to be easy and this is what I came up with.

Let Dhoni give up T20 captaincy with immediate effect - I know this will burn a lot of money in many people’s pockets, but he is very much capable of doing so, if he is convinced as to why it is necessary. Make Virat Kohli the captain and let him understand the perks and perils of being in the hot seat slowly. Giving Kohli the captaincy in all the three formats at the moment isn’t such a great idea as he is our #1 batsman at the moment. He must be concentrating in honing his batting skills and become a better batter. There will be some tough times for him as a batsman and you do not want additional burden of captaincy over his head. I strongly believe another 2-3 years of him not being the captain in both ODI’s and Tests would do a lot of good to him and to the team in the long run. He looks very much like a marathon horse rider, and hence he must be given the right foundations to educate himself before leading the side. He is aggressive and in the mould of Ricky Ponting when it comes to batting and he is just 23 years of age.

Now what about Dhoni? Does it matter if he isn’t part of T20? If he is willing to play it would be not a bad option if he plays just as a keeper-batsman. For ODI’s he is still a great batter, and a positive thing would be to have him just as a batter-captain while you start grooming the next wicketkeeper. This can be one of the options as I do not see him giving up T20 cricket entirely. For Tests, I want him as a keeper-batsman. A very much in Gilly mode, I believe strongly that India misses the attacking batsman in Dhoni in Tests.

When was the last time we saw him score that quick-fire fifty, or a hundred in Tests; when was the last time he came into bat when opposition was on top and score like the way Gilly did consistently. He used to, but somewhere the attacking nature of his batting went missing. Indian team needs a resurrected Dhoni, not as a captain at the moment, but as that batsman who was very consistent. It is also worth noting the fact that, if stop-gap arrangements are to be made in captaincy, then look to Tests and do not start with T20s and ODIs. Test cricket is a marathon and requires a special degree of preparation to remain on top. India did it with Anil Kumble, and the team progressed quite well before he handed the reins of captaincy over to Dhoni.

So while I propose Dhoni to be the captain for the ODI team, I am saying it is time to look at Virat Kohli for T20’s and one of the veterans to take up the mantle of Test captaincy.

If this kind of arrangement breeds inconsistency and breaks the constancy associated with Indian cricket so far; then it is time to upset the current orderliness as our players have to learn to perform under different leaders. When worked as a team under an able leader, it does not matter much. Australia had it with Steve Waugh and for some time with Ricky Ponting. This way, the pressures of being Indian cricket captain is well distributed among the three captains. The law of physics holds good and is a time tested one – ‘The building built with foundation that bears the load equally as a whole is a sign of a good structure.’ Dhoni was the sole foundation which was burdened with a lot of stress and cracks started to appear in the structure. Instead of demolishing the building, it is time to call upon reinforcements as there is nothing wrong with the building; it just requires a proper maintenance along with few preventive measures, which was long overdue.

Hope Indian cricket surprises us with visionary ideas. It is time to press the action button instead of relying on the typical reaction button. With a new selection panel in place, it isn’t such a bad idea to look at different ways to play the three forms of cricket. History cannot be completely accounted to the ever-changing dynamics of this game and it’s always been the out-of-box thinking that has helped teams to get to the top and more importantly for the game to evolve and reach out to many more in the world.


So it would be a surprise if Bolt or other athletes do a 100m, 5000m and a marathon simultaneously in the near future. Previously, you did have people doing multiple disciplines in running but currently the games have advanced so much that, you need different thinking processes to excel. In cricket, skills have not changed. It still is all about bowling, batting, keeping and fielding – but what has changed is the manner in which it is being executed. 

While the game of football has remained unchanged with little changes to it, cricket on the other hand relies heavily on a commander who in tandem with his comrades has made a significant difference to the game. While skill has always been respected and adored; the person who had/has the abilities to use them on the field is revered. Why be stressed and tired, when you can be fresh by placing different horses (captains) for different courses (formats)?