Dhoni needs to put his foot down - Lloyd
Clive Lloyd, former West Indies captain and leader of one of the most dominant teams in cricket history, feels the time has come for MS Dhoni to put his foot down and ask for a team he wants. That is the only way, Lloyd reckoned, that Dhoni can lead India back to the summit of Test cricket.
Lloyd was virtually in a similar boat to Dhoni in 1975. On June 21 that year, West Indies had won the inaugural World Cup, beating the favourites Australia in the final. Four months later, they travelled to Australia to face Greg Chappell's team, the best Test side of the time, and were overwhelmed 5-1 in the six-match series. Lloyd's men were knocked off their pedestal by the supreme velocity deployed by fast bowling quartet of Dennis Lillee, Jeff Thompson, Gary Gilmour and Max Walker.
Lloyd understood the only way West Indies could regain their preeminence and hit back at Australia was to use the same method - extreme pace. That was the genesis of perhaps the most famous fast bowling quartet of all time in Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Colin Croft and Joel Garner, who intimidated the best batsmen in the world for close to a decade.
"When I became captain I decided, fine, I have to do something different," Lloyd told ESPNcricinfo at St Lawrence County Ground in Canterbury where he had come to announce the shortlist for the 2011 ICC Awards. "I just put my foot down and said this is what I want. If you are going to be the captain you have to fashion things in your way and you have to tell the board exactly you are trying to do it. And they must back it."
The West Indies Cricket Board did not dispute Lloyd's decision. "They did [back it]. And that is how we came out trumps."
For the record Lloyd would go on to lose only one more series as captain - in New Zealand in 1979-80. According to Lloyd, India could actually use the 4-0 Test series defeat to England as a "catalyst" to develop the right tools that will help them get back to their winning ways. "It is entirely up to them how they use this opportunity and learn from their mistake," Lloyd said of India. "Eventually they will get back to their winning ways as they still are one of the best teams. This should be catalyst for making things right. They need to admit that we have made mistakes and we have to rectify them. "
One big reason Lloyd's West Indies reigned supreme for close to a decade was he had the respect of his players. In the aftermath of his first series defeat as captain, there is a steadily growing perception in India about Dhoni's ubercool attitude, a trait that has helped him enjoy a healthy relationship with the players in the four teams he currently leads (India in all forms of the game and the Chennai Super Kings in the IPL) needs to change. The suggestions are that he needs to be more involved in man-management.
Lloyd said he had the support of his players and a good management team that put a hand on his shoulder and whispered in his ear if there was anything going on that wasn't in accordance with team plans. "That is where your team management comes in: they need to help him and remind him how exactly to getting back the winning ways. People will make remarks but you have to work at what you want, what you think is good enough for you to sort of to be the top team. You made them No.1 in the world, you lead them to world cup victory, so you have to try and re-group and make India a top team again."
Simultaneously, Dhoni also needs to perform to strengthen his grip on the captaincy. He made twin fifties in the third Test in Birmingham but his last century (132) came in the series-levelling Test in Kolkata against South Africa on Valentine's Day, 2010. An increasing workload that has reached unmanageable proportions has also affected his wicketkeeping, as witnessed during the England series where Dhoni failed to collect the ball neatly on many occasions.
"I respected my players and they respected me. It is the respect that is important," Lloyd said. "You have to go out there and perform and play by example and think about what you want to do is a captain. This is just a little blip and I hope Dhoni understands the importance of what he has to achieve in the next year or so to get India back in the park."
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo