India v Australia, 2nd Test, Hyderabad, 4th day March 5, 2013

Captaincy success 'overhyped' - Dhoni


Victory in the Hyderabad Test has made MS Dhoni the most successful captain in Indian cricket, with 22 Test wins and two world titles in the limited-overs game - the 2007 ICC World T20 title and the 2011 World Cup.

At the end of the Hyderabad Test, where India stomped over Australia by an innings and 135 runs taking an unassailable 2-0 lead, Dhoni waved away his numero uno standing as India captain, and said it was "over-rated and hyped."

"If you see our dressing room right now, we are not bothered about who has won how many matches. What's important is to win Test matches. The more consistent we become the better it is for the side. I don't think this number really matters for us. What's important is that the last two matches we have done really well."

A Dhoni media briefing can be a wide-ranging explanation of tactics, glimpses of personal philosophy and more importantly, a reflection of the team management's thinking. Post-Hyderabad this is what it looks like: Virender Sehwag's position in the squad is a bit iffy, Harbhajan Singh is safe and if Cheteshwar Pujara pays too much attention on performing outside India, he won't relish the present.

Asked if Sehwag was on borrowed time and would be persisted with, Dhoni called the question a "difficult one." He said a 'wait and watch' was necessary before the selectors meet to pick the team for Mohali and Delhi. "You have to create a balance... You also need to see what situation we are in, because we will be touring abroad and we don't have that many Test matches after this series. In between we hardly play any Tests and we go off to South Africa… I won't really like to comment."

It was not as ringing an endorsement as was enjoyed by Harbhajan Singh, who Dhoni said had "shown improvement" in his last three Tests. Harbhajan, he said, had given him a very important option due to the number of left-handers in the Australian line-up.

I felt he bowled well in the second innings in Chennai and he has shown improvement in this game. He is bowling in one area which is very important. Of course you will have one lead spinner, but when it comes to the second spinner you may have to choose horses for courses
MS Dhoni on Harbhajan Singh

"He played against England and people weren't happy. I could also not make him bowl the amount of overs that I would have liked to. That's the case with three spinners. Often one of them will be slightly under-utilised."

He believed the pressure of Harbhajan playing his 100th Test was "was always there on him. What's important is how he has overcome that. I felt he bowled well in the second innings in Chennai and he has shown improvement in this game. He is bowling in one area which is very important. Of course you will have one lead spinner, but when it comes to the second spinner you may have to choose horses for courses."

In an interview to the BCCI's official website, Pujara had said that he would judge himself on how he performed in 'tough overseas conditions."

Asked if this attitude was important for a young player to have on his team, Dhoni replied, "I think he watches too many media channels because that's what really happens. I have always said you need to be in the present. Of course he has set his own standards but what is important to enjoy what you have done. What he has done or what anyone has done. No point in saying you have done well in India; go out and do it and we will judge you as a batsman." While Pujara may himself have made that comment himself, Dhoni said, "but that's my point - we all love to comment that way, but it's also important to enjoy the moment. You have done well; so enjoy the moment. That will be my suggestion to him. He will score runs… that's a different story."

India's marked difference in recent performance home and away, Dhoni said, was a reflection of the variety of conditions that made Test cricket challenging. "You have to realise 80 or 70 per cent of the matches you play in your home conditions. You have to be good there. As I always say, once you go abroad the conditions are totally different and that's a challenge. That's what improves our Test cricket over a period of time. I think the sides that have players who have toured the sub-continent or of us who have played in other countries, they have been able to perform quite consistently."

"I feel it's still a challenge, that's what is special about Test cricket. You go abroad, you have different conditions, you come to the sub-continent, the wicket becomes slow and low. If everything becomes the same, Test cricket won't be challenging."

He said India had lifted itself off from the series loss against England by putting in an all-round effort in all disciplines. "Against England we were not at our best. We were not scoring enough runs, we were not putting huge totals on the board for our bowlers to be aggressive. All these things play a crucial part. You can't just rely on your batting or bowling, as a unit you have to do well. Once you score runs, automatically you will see bowlers doing well. It works the other way as well, if the bowlers are bowling well it creeps into your batting also." In the current series using a fifth bowler in Jadeja had worked well at home.

When asked what his advice would be to Michael Clarke, Dhoni said his only piece of advice would be that, "screaming [at his team] won't really help". But he added he wouldn't want to "poke his nose because it's a bit unfair. You need to respect your opponents… you don't give Australians bit more advice as they are very competitive and they can come back strongly in the series." He said Australia could take back positives from the series that they would have a pool of players the next time they travelled to the subcontinent who would be, "better equipped to handle the conditions. I think it's a win-win situation for them. Just that they have to be a bit patient."

The difference the Hyderabad pitch made for the spinners was that it had started to turn once the ball got old. In the second session on day one, India were unable to find turn and couldn't break the Michael Clarke-Matthew Wade partnership, "That session we struggled a bit. All of a sudden the ball became soft and once we came back after tea, we saw that spinners were able to get a bit of turn and put pressure on the opposition."

India used that knowledge to impose themselves on Australia in the second innings on Monday evening. "We bowled close to 32 odd overs and gave away 72 or 73 runs. We had runs in hand, and we were waiting for the ball to turn soft. It's one of the reasons why we wanted Ishant with the semi-new ball today. He got us that important breakthrough and because of that we were able to put pressure on their batting."

Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Salil on March 8, 2013, 0:34 GMT

    @ jasonpete - Amen. Finally a sane voice amidst a sea of bias.

  • pan on March 7, 2013, 18:40 GMT

    Nampally, tell me which captain past/current among all cricket playing countries when they loose 4-5 players within a span of year have won matches/series. Your post does make me think you just don't like dhoni and his captaincy. Dhoni might have input in team selection but the selectors make the decision on the final 11.

  • mythily on March 7, 2013, 0:59 GMT

    Posted by Nampally on (March 6, 2013, 16:44 GMT), ok ,everyone knows why harbhjan picked in the first place and team management announced even two days before the first test that he will be playing his 100th test.You can see its not only dhoni decision to play him ,somehwere team official wants bhajji to complete the milestone.Many times dhoni didn't use him during England series and people were complaining that dhoni dont like harbhjan .Now When harbhjan picked in the squad ,they say he don't like Ojha.Its hard to please everyone as every Indian team members has their own fan base and they want their favourite star play to be in the team no matter what eg, sehwag.Team members needs to be in form and should perform,then only any captain in the world can have success by managing the available resources ,this is what Clarke is going through at the moment with his top order and out of form batsmen like Watson.Pujara yet to debut for india in ODI and his first class cricket don't count.

  • Prakash on March 6, 2013, 17:31 GMT

    Dhoni will be selecting the team for horses for courses. His horses will be always Jadeja, Harbajan WHY???

    Ridiculous to read the line that Harbhajan shown some improvement. He is playing his 100+ test not 5th or 10th test.

  • Ashok on March 6, 2013, 16:44 GMT

    @Jasonpete: Pl. read my teXt properly. I said Dhoni inherited top batsmen & Bowlers in form. As long as they performed, he won. The instant they failed, he could not improvise by developing new talent. When you drop your best spinner or best batsman in form, to make room for your favourites, you cannot win.That is the real issue here. A good Captain motivates the team & keeps them united by rewarding performing guys. Dhoni dropped Ojha who was the best bowler vs. England- why? To make room for non performing Bhaji. In ODI's, Indian batting was failing. The Selectors added Pujara, "the best batsman against England inTests", to the ODI squad to reinforce the batting. Dhoni instantly benched him.Please note my wording in quotations. Stop saying Pujara as "ODI debutant". He played 62 ODI's @ an average of 58. Playing against much weaker England bowling than in tests (he averaged 87 in Tests) is like piece of cake for him!. A good captain embraces talented guys in form NOT "Bench them"!

  • KING on March 6, 2013, 16:20 GMT

    What is wickets?

    When the batting side players gets out,its termed as wicket gone,The maximum number of wickets in an innings taking both sides in hand , will be 20 out of 22 players .This is possible only if both teams gets all out..The Credit goes to the Bowler for taking that wicket, even though the other players in the team take catches.

    But to my Creative thinking ** WICKETS MEANS**

    West-Indies West Pakistan Womens Cricket World XI

    India Ireland ICC IPL Ist Class Cricket I Day International


    Kenya Kerry Packers(Australia) Kiwis (New zealand). Kabulis (Afghanistan).

    England(British who invented Cricket) East Pakistan(Bangladesh)

    Toronto and District Cricket Association(Where I Play) Test matches T20 T20 international Tennis ball cricket

    South Africa Sri-Lanka Scotland State of Zimbabwe in the African continent States of America united (USA).

    In the above 16 top international teams are covered, with the other 1st class teams PLUS ALL FORMATS OF CRICKET;no copy**

  • mythily on March 6, 2013, 15:43 GMT

    Posted by Nampally on (March 6, 2013, 14:03 GMT), simple question ,when the famed Indian batting order failed to perform both in Australia and England,what captain can do alone to win the games? First of all he is a wicket keeper batsmen and captain who comes to bat at no.7 ,how could he perform alone and win the games when india was shot out below 300 everytime?.Dont you think it's a team game and everyone needs to perform to win a test match.Clarke is a very good captain but look how he is struggling at the moment with this inexperienced batting line up in india? Captain alone can't win matches do they? Everyone needs to do their job from 1 to 11. Clarke is struggling after Hussey and Ponting retirement,where as Ponting too struggled after Hayden,Gilly and warne retirement. Captain is good as the team and it same for dhoni and ganguly.Pujara yet to debut in ODi match for india and you call him the best ODI batsmen.Hilarious.Dont jump the guns.Take it easy.

  • Rohan on March 6, 2013, 15:30 GMT

    people talking abt gangulys record as captain outside subcontinent is great, ganguly only won 3 tests outside subcontinent(3 of them were against zimbabwe) 1 westindies, 1 england, 1 in australia, dhoni also won 3 tests outside subcontinent, 1 westindies, 1newzeland, 1 southafrica, if you think that viru, bhajji, yuvi, zak came under zaheer, then gambhir, raina, virat kohli, ashwin, umesh yadav, bhuvi, pujara all of them got chances under dhoni, even best time of sachin, kumble, srinath was under azhar, why dnt u give credit to azhar fr that? captains cn never create a plyaer, every individual makes his name fr himsef, no one else can do it fr the players........

  • Ashok on March 6, 2013, 14:21 GMT

    I appreciate the exchange between @AjuNair & @Nish_US. However I must confess Nish-US, is absolutely right & very much reflects the opinion of all unbiased Fans, incl. myself. I ask you sir, How can the only Indian bowler in top 10 of the world's Test Bowlers be dropped to make room for a washed out Harbhajan- who had the worst performance in all levels of Cricket in past 18 months? Not only that, MSD says he is "improving" with a total of 5 wkts. in 4 innings! Also there is absolutely no justification in dropping Pujara from 3 ODI's Vs. England, when Pujara was the best batsman against England in Tests with an average of 87. He silenced Dhoni emphatically with a double century-Class! Dhoni advises Clarke about NOT screaming - while he screamed at Pujara, the 12th man in the ODI, in full view of TV audience.MSD is irrational in selection of XI. He drops the "Best" bowler in Tests to make room for "worst"! He drops the best batsman in ODI's when the Indian batting is struggling - Pity!

  • Ashok on March 6, 2013, 14:03 GMT

    Sharda, Most successful Captain for India should also be based on Losses rather than just wins.If you see the excellent stats. compiled by @memoriesofthepast, it is clear that Gavaskar with 8 losses out of 47 leads, with about 17% losses. Dhoni with 12 losses out of 45 has a 26.6% losses record & is 5th in all time losses as an India Captain - Ganguly, Kumble, Kapil & Gavaskar are all ahead of him. But the important point to note is when Dhoni took over the Captaincy, India had Gambhir, Sehwag as the best opening bats followed by Dravid, SRT & Laxman all in top form. Harbhajan & ZAK were still great bowlers too with lots of other bowlers chipping in. But the minute these great 5 batsmen & the 2 main bowlers started failing either due to injuries or age, Dhoni was an utter disaster with 1-11 record. He did not develop any new players.Pujara was forced upon him & MSD instantly benched him in 3 ODI's.Ojha is the latest benching victim.So in my opinion he is wrong man for Test captaincy!