The clamor, that is doing the rounds from respected cricketers of yesteryears, coaches and other stakeholders of the game to look beyond MSD as India’s test captain, looks to me utterly preposterous and immature. One otherwise respected captain has gone to the extent of calling MSD’s captaincy “obnoxious”- I only hope the gentleman does not end up eating his own words in few months’ time.
If one just goes by the record books of last 12 odd tests without bothering to delve into the context of the transition this predominately young Indian team (incidentally MSD is the oldest of the lot at 31 years) is going through, a grave mistake and injustice are being done. When senior members were dragging their feet far too long, we, the people wanted the places to be vacated for the young colts and when that ultimately happened, we told ourselves to give them "time" and be patient while they group as a team. Now, in the face of few defeats, we have blissfully forgotten our promise made to them and taken resort to what we do best – the cribbing to ask for heads. While there is a cricket expert in each of us calling the shots from the cozy corners of our own sweet homes as arm chair strategist, with due respect to all these guys, I am sorry to say that we are not being responsible enough.
I fail to understand how we are missing the point that the performance in South Africa and NewZeland were much better in comparison to what we saw in England followed by in Australia. There are clear signs of team improving in each of these outings in both the departments – batting and bowling while fielding calls for much introspection. Dhoni, not long ago hailed as an imaginative captain, has tried to draw our attention to this very fact which can’t and should not be really ignored. The following article is not out of place in this discussion.
Coming to the point of captaincy, it is agreed and often said that a captain is as good as the team and a captain can make the team better. But with limited options that MSD had in all three departments when things were not falling in place and good performances - few and far between were occurring only in patches- what else he could have done. I am sure it is the results that are creating all this fury. If the results would have been in India’s favor, all the current discussion points finding lacuna of captaincy would have gone out of the window.
It is easy to pass judgments in hindsight. Lots of things can be analyzed for appropriate decision making in reflection but that does not help the captains on the field. While it is pointed out that MSD has taken defensive positions to save runs rather than chasing 20 wickets – I personally don’t agree that all the ex-players in his position would have done something different in each of those situations. Every captain adopts both - aggressive and defensive approach suiting to the context of the game based on the best possible analysis at that time in consultation with team management and that is just normal to me. None goes with only one approach in the course of a series of games and I don’t expect it that way from anyone at this level of international cricket. In this regard, terming MSD only as a defensive captain is not acceptable just noting some instances of field placements or delaying the new ball. We should respect any such decisions taken as a part and parcel of collective strategy and tactic to the game at hand and just leave it there.
In this context, the comments from respected Sunny Gavaskar in the below article is noteworthy which, to me, is a balanced and matured view.
While changing the captains as knee jerk solution did not work for any countries, two captain theories also did not prove to be any panacea. To me, the games as a whole – how much we try to bring scientific approach to it ,are far away from engineering and holds good amount of uncertainty entangled into them and there lies the beauty. I would like to opine that this team, as a faction less unit is growing well under the leadership of MSD and we should not be too worried just in the face of 10 defeats over a period of 2 odd years. Though we never expected that from day one, this new team will bring laurels to India, they have achieved that in winning champions’ trophy and other one day series in outside of India conditions while the record in the subcontinent is impeccable.
Allow me to raise the point that home teams are playing to their strengths in their local grounds and results are being diagrammatically opposite for the same team in home and away situation. Is this a real test of capability ? Or does the answer lie in a neutral venue concept? While I understand commercial aspects will be at stake in such situations, I do believe that results from neutral venue are the only and real measurement of strength while a pinch of salt needs to be added for the results in favor of local teams in home conditions.