Mahendra Singh Dhoni has felt the wrath of India’s baying fans following their 3-1 series defeat to England, but is nonetheless the right man to captain the side going forward.
Unsurprisingly, the wicket-keeper batsman’s position as skipper was under far less scrutiny after the Lord’s Test, but that proved a turning point, with England winning the remaining three games.
Calls for Dhoni’s head
Dhoni, along with head coach Duncan Fletcher, has faced calls for his resignation, with India seemingly lacking in discipline and spirit.
Even apart from their poor results, the tour of England has been marred by the Jadeja-Anderson spat in the first Test at Trent Bridge and the subsequent fall-out, as well as India being fined for their slow over-rate.
Fletcher appears to be under the most pressure from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), with Ravi Shastri having effectively replaced him as the key decision-maker ahead of the ODIs.
Let down by key men
Whether that spells the end of Fletcher’s reign remains to be seen, but Dhoni must be left in charge on the field. While he harbours responsibility for their disastrous tour, there has been little he could do, as several key players have failed to perform.
Virat Kohli is one of a number of batsmen under pressure after several low scores, though Dhoni himself often proved a lone ranger in his attempts to stunt India’s batting collapses.
On the pitch, Dhoni was one of few bright lights for the Men in Blue, and therefore led by example in a manner not worthy of sacking.
Admittedly, they have been unfortunate with injuries; after terrorising England at Lord’s with figures of 7-74, Ishant Sharma was ruled out, and had clearly not recovered from his ankle injury even when he returned.
Injuries and poor form can, to some extent, be excused. Poor coaching, on the other hand, must be addressed, hence the BCCI’s experimentation with Shastri, who has also brought his own coaches into the set-up.
That has evidently been identified as the root cause of India’s poor fitness. A side as unfit as India were always going to struggle with five Tests in 42 days – even if their performances often meant that not every Test lasted the full five days.
Fitness has not just been a problem in their tour of England, but has long hindered them in their overseas struggles. They have been unable to cope with different conditions, and looked lost on the green pitches of the Rose Bowl and the Oval.
Dhoni is already looking ahead to India’s home matches against the West Indies, and he will be one of many going into that series with a point to prove.