Bring It On !!!
Didn't take too long for Indian media.
Dhoni wilts under pressure | Hard News
Mahendra Singh Dhoni once said, "I want players who, if I ask them to, will stand in front of a truck", and, true to his wish the young Indian team rallied behind him and has been consistently outdoing opponents in one of the greatest cricketing highs of Indian cricket. His leadership skills were being compared to that of Steve Waugh. He came out as a brilliant tactician on the field and inspired the young team to achieve greatness.
But, pressure seems to be telling on the Indian skipper. Even during the great showing by the 'men in blue', Dhoni was feeling the intense pressure of captainship building up. Over a period, he has slowly lost what he was respected for - aggression and fluency. And, amidst all this came the T 20 World Cup, which exposed the chinks in MSD's armour.
Information leaks, Sehwag's injury fiasco, media gag, poor form and pressure of captaincy added to Dhoni's woes. Leading commentators like Ravi Shastri, Harsha Bhogle and Barry Richards among others referred to his brilliant past while highlighting his not-so-glittering present form.
His wicket-keeping skills have always been questioned and now the criticism is growing louder about his much vaunted batting. Dhoni realizes that if batting does not click then his place in the team could come under a cloud. Due to this reason, he is continuously shuffling the batting order to give himself more time to bat. His use of bowlers are also baffling cricket experts. "He is losing control of the team because of his individual form and decisions. Earlier, Zaheer was the de facto leader of the bowling unit. He would encourage the bowlers and help them out. In the last few matches, however, his involvement seems to have petered out. This should be a cause of concern for Dhoni," an expert told Hardnews.
His poor batting form and decision to bat first down is drawing ire from all quarters. His decision to play Suresh Raina late is hurting not only Raina but also the team. In the qualifying matches, Raina had to bat under immense pressure in the last few overs and started swashbuckling straightway. Raina needs time at the crease and can be aggressive and hold the innings at one end. But, continuous shuffling of his batting order is hurting this talented cricketer as it was evident in the match against West Indies.
Dhoni's decision to play cautiously in the middle overs is spoiling the team's prospects to defend the crown. "In India's match against Bangladesh, Dhoni came first down and slowed the aggressive start given by Rohit Sharma. This decision cost India some very valuable runs. One can afford this in matches against minnows, but against teams like South Africa or New Zealand, middle overs can be a decisive factor," said a cricket enthusiast. Dhoni must be fighting his own demons as he would be well aware of how closely his decisions are being watched.
India's loss against West Indies in the Super 8 can spell disaster for Dhoni and his team's prospects. His super slow innings in the middle overs, missed run-out chances, under-utilisation of Irfan Pathan and other part time bowlers are making headlines. Fans blame him for the debacle and started to doubt whether the Captain Cool is cool anymore.
India was in a similar situation in the last World Cup, but then Dhoni was confident, in-form and utilised all his resources wisely. This seems to have gone missing in 2009. If the team falters and fails to qualify, Dhoni will be the target of the ire of cricket fans and the media to an extent never before faced by Captain Cool.
"If India crashes out, Dhoni's fate is uncertain but rest assured that he would never be the same MSD we loved. The MSD who batted at all positions fearlessly only to instil fear amongst the opposition is what we want and this is what he should," rued a fan. Those who have been watching Dhoni closely would also see a change in his batting style. The flourish with which he stroked the ball has gone. Sometime back even a politician, Lalu Prasad Yadav, commented on his loss of form.
Dhoni's commitment to the game remains undisputed. He is at the crossroads of his cricketing career and a few mistakes can trigger the inevitable beginning of an end. But, the onus is on Dhoni to figure out how he can improve his skills as a batter and a leader before the destiny catches up with him.