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April 9, 2009

Samir Chopra

Dark cloud over Dhoni - 2

Samir Chopra

Given the large number of responses to my previous post, I thought it only fair that I write some sort of response. I've tried to organize this into a series of questions and answers. More broadly, I would say that it doesn't really matter what my (or anyone else's) background is when it comes to writing on cricket or on anything else. What needs evaluation is the argument, not the person making the argument. Anyway, here we go.

  1. You're just drawing on the benefits of hindsight. Why didn't you say this before? Actually, I did. On the third day of the Test before tea-time, I wrote in Eye-on-Cricket, "I'm glad that it has rained a bit at the Basin Reserve. And I hope someone has pointed out to MS Dhoni that it'll get darker an hour sooner there. For hopefully, this lunatic suggestion going around that India should just keep on batting, and batting and batting will die the quick death it deserves. Get the lead to 500 and declare, and give yourself time and plenty of runs on the board to set attacking fields and get the 20 wickets to win. Why imagine the Basin Reserve will remain sunny and dry till the end of the fifth day? And if you don't think you can win despite setting a target of 500 I'd suggest a hunt for the proverbial chullu-bhar". I followed this up with a post on the fourth day as well. I had hoped for a declaration on the third day. When India batted on, I gave them the benefit of the doubt, thinking that NZ might not have batted anyway, given the poor light. Perhaps they could declare overnight? But I also thought, that at most, please at most, don't bat more than an hour. In the end, India batted on for some 90 minutes. I had a bad feeling then, given the clouds hovering around over the Basin Reserve and given the light situation. Just a reminder, once again: India was up by 231 runs with nine wickets in hand at the end of the second day.

  2. What would you have said if New Zealand would have chased down the 500? My post above should give the game away. Those of North Indian origin will recognize the reference in the last line of the post I quoted above (for the benefit of others, I was saying something like "you should drown yourself in a thimble-full of water if you can't defend 500 in the fourth innings"). I would have said the Indian bowlers were pathetic, that the fielders needed catching practice, because almost certainly some dropped catches would have helped the NZ team, and quite possibly I would have lambasted Dhoni's field placings, because he might have contributed to the disaster by panicky field settings. I would have also have congratulated the Kiwis for pulling off the well-nigh impossible. I wouldn't have criticized the declaration, that's for sure. I like attacking declarations.

  3. History is irrelevant to what will happen in the future, surely? In the strict sense, yes. However, there is a reason why teams don't make big scores chasing in the fourth innings. The pressure factor is qualitatively different.

  4. Captains can only pay attention to impending rain not to rain forecast the next day or day-after. Actually, they can and they should. The former, because forecasts are better now. The latter, because cricketing strategy demands it. Captains should be aware of local conditions. Any captain that doesn't plan on rain in New Zealand is being a bit naive. Should a captain touring India in the later part of the season not account for the fact that the afternoons get scorching hot, when thinking about whether to enforce the follow-on? How is that not planning around the weather? But let us discard this point for a second. Let's forget about planning for the rain. Should Dhoni have waited till the lead was over 600? My answer to that would still have been a No.

  5. Do you think Dhoni should be fired as captain? No. I think he is a very good captain. He is pretty canny; he clearly inspires the team. I do think he is a better T20 and ODI captain than a Test captain. Perhaps he will get better as he gets used to the idea of winning tests. But he needs to snap out of a conservative mind-set before it becomes too deeply ingrained in him.

  6. Lastly, have you ever played cricket or captained a team in your life? Yes; I captained Mathematics in the Inter-Departmental Competition at Hindu College in 1987. We lost in the first round to Chemistry.

Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He tweets here

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Posted by nimaUnmataHem on (July 6, 2009, 0:07 GMT)

Awesome blog! Subscribed on rss. Regular will read it. Good job.

Posted by Ajay on (April 18, 2009, 5:03 GMT)

i think we are basically worried that Dhonis style of play will making test cricket even more boring. But you can't really complain as long he wins the series. The real dark cloud over Dhoni is if he loses the test match, then the criticism will be much more severe.

Winning the series is the only thing that matters to him. if we won first 3 ODIs in 5 match series, then he doesn't mind losing the other two, he always insists on giving opportunity to new players at that time and not about winning all the games in th series.

also may i remind that Dhoni has to captain the team, bat well, and also keep the wickets. besides the pressure factors of leading the Indian Cricket Team which is on winning note, people expect them to win every series.

Samir Chopra says he likes attacking declarations but unfortunately people of India , BCCI, selectors hate to see India losing a match, would prefer the match drawn. Dhoni definitely knows that.

Posted by Sagar on (April 17, 2009, 14:19 GMT)

Another interesting thing to note about Dhoni's captiancy is that he is more focussed about winning a series than winning all matches. Good or Bad? I dont know. But if we can all series we play, I will take it anyday even if it's less 'entertaining'

His comments through Aussie Series, English Series and The Kiwi Series are on the lines of "We are focussed on winning the series".

"If a war is won, let the opponent have its fun on some battles."

Some may say its not competitive. But If i can win a war, who is to complain!

Posted by Narsi on (April 15, 2009, 21:06 GMT)

Sameer,

A trend I have noticed in dhoni's attitude is to win the series and then let the opposition play for it. sometimes the oppostion have gone for it and have lost in their efforts and sometime the oppostions have just given up going for a win and india have won the series anyway. Remember the last match we lost to the SL after we won the OD series, remember the last ODI we won of the NZL. To that extent dhoni has been consistent in his captaincy across the different formats. Is that justified..maybe..maybe not..but that is his attitude and who is to blame when he gets the team to a position where he can let the team sit back and let the opposition do the hard walk every time.

so..I wouldnt really question bother about that one last match as long as india performs as consistently as it does now.

Why should a clean sweep be the prerogative of a champion team ? It makes perfect sense to lay back and enjoy the game from time to time after the series in our pocket.

Posted by PD on (April 14, 2009, 23:01 GMT)

wow!!! RKM - can CI consider you for their Blogs? I am copying-&-pasting your comments again:

Give us a break,Samir. At best, a blog is an opinion & you have made yours.Move on. Let's say this. We can accuse MS Dhoni of several things, to keep a blog alive. But,we need to realise that his peers,competitors and antagonists cant deny his success. The team and its fulcrum hasn't changed since the nadir- 2007 World Cup.The same middle order,same bowling,same keeper.Indian Cricket fans FINALLY have the team ( which includes its captain by the way) that it deserves. A team that comes back from the dead, a team that is consistent, can't be taken lightly under ... & a team that is fearless. While all of this credit does not go to MSD - contributions from SC Ganguly and A Kumble cannot be denied - it cant be a coincidence and certainly not just luck that it happens under MSD. For every Wellington there is a M & C to judge him. He has secured much and doesn't need fans who have no perspective.

Posted by Sumeet on (April 14, 2009, 15:00 GMT)

Hi Samir,

Your view is interesting is all I can say ,not sure it was right or wrong? One thing for sure ,I would have completely agreed with your view had it come out at the start of Indian second innings.. Cheers mate! Sumeet

Posted by Surya on (April 11, 2009, 5:46 GMT)

as a blogger rightly pointed out, with a team having a gr8 bunch of seniors as much along with these youngsters it is never an easy job to decide on your own and break the bonding amongst these guys, and more than the margin or the scoreline the winning attitude is more important, which after Kapil is seen in abundance in Dhoni than the other captains who came in between, give him and the team time to grow and they will show their true spirit

Posted by Vasanth on (April 10, 2009, 21:48 GMT)

Dhoni ,generally seems to be a courageous captain. But this time , i feel the 41 yr old record came in..and more than the fear of losing, dhoni feared answering millions of critics back home in case he lost.

Posted by Anil Mehra on (April 10, 2009, 19:30 GMT)

One more thing about winning mentality ... Just have to look at the way the Austrailian team - Only inconsistency in hteir team is the team Roster. But how come they always seems to manufacture ways to win sooner than later? With us - lets see how to change a winning proposition into a draw and a draw into a loss.

Posted by Ravi Metlapally on (April 10, 2009, 17:08 GMT)

Samir, Good post! I completely agree. To all of you who have been harsh on Samir: 1. I respect Dhoni for what he is as a leader and what he has achieved. 2. Leave all the weather and light conversations out. 3. 600 was too much and forced the NZ batsmen into survival mode - a mode which will not create (relatively) as many chances to get those 10 wickets on a good deck. 3. Australia won many matches in their golden era by leaving the carrot dangling and India should have done that.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Samir Chopra
Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He runs the blogs at samirchopra.com and Eye on Cricket. His book on the changing face of modern cricket, Brave New Pitch: The Evolution of Modern Cricket has been published by HarperCollins. Before The Cordon, he blogged on The Pitch and Different Strokes on ESPNcricinfo. @EyeonthePitch

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