This article was written after India’s humiliating defeat to the Aussies in the 2015 World Cup defeat. Unfortunely, much has not changed since then. So, though of sharing this one once again.
The once much adored and revered Captain Cool by virtue of his sheer presence in the invincible Srini-Dhoni regime delivered a lot of things that catered to the needs and aspirations of a Cricket frenzied nation like India. Coupled with the power of position, the fortune of being destiny’s favored child along with his personal ability to direct a game’s fortune bestowed upon him the tag of being India’s most Successful Captain. Starting with the 2007 T-20 World Championship, followed by the ever-favorite 2011 Cricket World Cup Victory or even winning the 2013 Champions Trophy, MSD has been a rare character of winning major titles. It was under his leadership that India secured the No 1 spot at the ICC Test Ranking for the first time ever in history. But did all these feats steer India to a positive direction aimed at a brighter future of Indian Cricket? Sadly enough, the answer is not affirmative.
One of Dhoni’s earliest moves as the India Captain was breeding a whole new generation of youngsters. This was in tandem with the policy of one of his predecessors, Ganguly. This is the reason why players like Raina, Rohit, Jadeja, Ojha, Ashwin, Mohit, Rohit, Bhuvi, Yusuf bloomed in a span of half an era or so. Some of them remain still in the purview of favoritism of the Captain while some failed to earn his favor even whilst performing well at the domestic level. A policy of favoritism has hardly worked in any sports. The result was obvious and obnoxious, too. While players like Raina, Bhuvi or Mohit secured their positions and some of them even played an Nth number of matches despite failing to achieve any remarkable success at the International level, some of the players like Ojha, Yusuf or even Irfan failed to get even any chance to prove their merit. Players like Kohli, Ashwin, Jadeja or even Rohit could shine under any captain by virtue of their superiority in terms of talent showcased. The latest ODI Series against South Africa was documentary evidence of how much such policy of favoritism can bring danger to an International side. MSD’s knack of trusting his obedient mediocre soldiers did exactly what was being feared of since the 2015 World Cup Semifinal against Australia or the matches preluding the Tournament.
A look at Pragyan Ojha’s Test career will tell you how much disfavored he has been in spite of having a scalp of 113 wickets in the 24 test matches he has played. Yet he played his last Test match 3 years back. An arsenal of talent like Irfan Pathan, the second Indian to record a hat-trick in Test Matches was dumped into oblivion for obscure reasons. Guys like Maneesh Pandey, the first Indian Centurion at IPL never even got a call to the national side. This tells us about a sad autocratic regime which never looked beyond sycophancy. Same was the fate for the likes of talented and successful individuals at the Domestic level like Manoj Tiwari, Wassim Jaffar, or Robin Uthappa. Did not they deserve chances while India was in a dire need of a specialist batsman, or an all-rounder?
Another policy of MSD that worked against the national cricketing interest was culling some of the stalwarts who were potential candidates of captaincy while being in their prime. Thus even Virender Shewag with his blitzkrieg knocks or the ever-fascinating chutzpah perished and eventually, he called it an end of his illustrious career. Any wise captain would have been more than happy to use his services when he was just 31 and was dying to play for the national side. He was never called back. A sense of insecurity of the apparently charming captain thus ended the career of a person who holds the record of scoring 2 triple centuries and having No 1, 2 and 3 spots in terms of scoring highest individual runs in an innings for India. He was not even given a chance to write the swan song of his career. Even Gautam Gambhir with impressive career records in all the formats of the game was gradually culled and sent to seclusion. Few people will remember his 97 in the World Cup Final of 2011 against Sri Lanka as it was completely overshadowed by a brilliant 91 off 79 deliveries from the Captain. Sooner or later, the world will see an end of his career which could have been more dynamic than the present figures show, had the Captain Cool been more merciful. Same fate waited for the maverick Yuvraj Singh, another engineer of the famous 2011 World Cup Victory and an enigmatic talent. His talent coupled with his knack for speaking what the truth became his biggest enemy and he lost his path in the mid-way. Even though he could battle Cancer, he failed to earn Dhoni’s confidence. Had Ganguly been the Captain, would the same fortune await him?
The way the modern-day great duo of India in Cricket- Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh were handled, foretold of a bleak fortune for India in cricket. This is a classic example of how arrogance still spoils the national interest. One, after much fanfare, made his return to the national side just with a vision to make his quit call early. The other, Mr.Singh is still searching his entire cricketing lexicon on what went wrong with him. Getting a call back for the ODI series and performing well does not even concrete his fortune. Any other nation would have respected these two individuals with a sure entry in the national side while they were young and were raring for kills. MSD was quite unsure of his manifesto about these two seniors. So one was paved the way gracefully while the other does not even know his future. Thankfully Sachin was way ahead of MSD in terms of talent. Had he not been so, MSD would have doctored his early quit as well. Who knows what was instrumental behind his call for quit in the ODIs while he was in still his prime?
Finally coming to terms of his brilliant record of winning, MSD won a career record of 27 Test matches out of the 60 matches he captained with 18 loses and 15 draws with a win/Loss ratio of 1.5 In this comparison, Saurav Ganguly another successful Indian Test captain, had 21 Wins out of 49 Test matches with Win-Loss ratio of 1.61. Do not forget MSD had consecutive series whitewashes against Australia and England followed by a pathetic Series loss against England at home, a figure which is unmatched in history.
History with its generic submissiveness gives in plenty to the humble ones. Thus Rahul Dravid will always be remembered as the one who stood as the unbreakable wall against the opposition bowling attack or for captaining the side in ODI matches for 17 consecutive times where his team successfully chased the opponents. VVS Laxman will be reckoned as the manufacturer of the famous knock of 281 not out against a mighty Australian attack and the merchant of a dream win against the invincible Aussies back in 2001 at the Eden Gardens. Saurav will be remembered for his uncanny character of tossing his shirt around at the conservative pavilion of the Lords and for steering India to a failed Final venture against the mighty Aussies in 2003 World Cup Final or for the Series defining knock of 144 against the same opponent at Gabba back in 2001. Dhoni did much more to bring the nation to prominence in terms of achievements. Yet history will always scrutinize him for the things he failed to achieve. This is the perfect career sunset for a King who never looked beyond personal ambitions and who after a series of failures rightly chose the path of exit, to abdicate the throne. This just might be a wonderful case study for the new Captain Mr. Kohli to select his future paths. One thing the nation will pray for while Mr.Kohli is at the helm of the affairs is that sycophancy, unlike the previous regime, will be shown a way of exit, much to the delight of every cricket-loving Indian. And many deserving individuals will get back their positions while the nation will be relieved of favoritism and fortunate to have someone who looks brighter to perform national duty. It is high time that the individual who is miles ahead of the ‘Captain-not-so-cool’ in terms of talent, is given the baton to lead India in all formats of the game