Time Out

'Time for Dhoni to step out of his cocoon'

Harsha Bhogle, Rahul Dravid and Sanjay Manjrekar discuss MS Dhoni and Duncan Fletcher ahead of two big home assignments

ESPNcricinfo staff

November 14, 2012

Comments: 18 | Text size: A | A

Harsha Bhogle: And so as India plays England in four Test matches at home followed by a little series with Pakistan in between, there's been a lot of talk about who should play and who shouldn't. Not as much about leadership, because, finally, I think that will have just as much of a say as, I believe, anything else. The captaincy of the Indian cricket team, the position of the coach has always been the topic of discussion. So where do India stand on this leadership issue? How stable are we? How solid are we? Is this the best way ahead? Rahul Dravid, playing for India till a couple of Test matches ago, joins us. So does Sanjay Manjrekar.

In terms of leadership, in terms of the season ahead, how critical is that as factor?

Rahul Dravid: The leadership is going to be very important, there's no doubt about it. It's going to be a couple of high-pressure series, both of them at home. Playing at home, even though India has the advantage of home conditions, brings with it its own set of expectations and pressures - having to win, and not just win but win convincingly.

HB: Sanjay, is the leadership under trial in any sense, or is there a feeling that leading away from India is completely different from leading in India, and so one doesn't imply anything about the other?

Sanjay Manjrekar: I think Dhoni is under pressure, purely because of what's happened. The 0-8 loss that we keep talking about, the overseas losses. And the popular feeling and talk is that no captain would have survived that kind of a performance. Plus, the World Twenty20 that India didn't play too well in. So, all that is building some pressure on Dhoni.

Having said that, I don't believe he is under too much pressure in the home series, purely because the conditions suit his team. From that standpoint, he'll get much better support from his bowlers, from his batsmen. I personally felt that Dhoni should not have been held responsible so much for what happened overseas, in England and Australia, because I thought he was one of the many reasons India had that kind of a performance.

His captaincy may have been dull at times, and he was actually bailed out a bit… [but] there was Virender Sehwag who captained India in the last Test, at Adelaide, and India still had the same result and lost as badly as they did under Dhoni. So that also told you something about the team that was playing in England and Australia, specifically the batting.

HB: Rahul, is it very different captaining India overseas when things are going against you or when things can go against you, and captaining in India, when you know the conditions?

RD: They are completely different things because of the quality of your bowling attack. When you look at the effectiveness of your spinners in Indian conditions, and the resources that you have at your disposal, and the impact your bowling can have in India, it makes a big difference. It makes it a lot easier to captain. The challenge is when you go abroad and your spinners are not that effective and you have to rely on your fast bowlers to make the breakthroughs at various stages. Sometimes you just don't have the quality or the fitness in your fast bowling department to be able to get teams out twice. It puts a lot of pressure on captains.

When you look at Indian captains, you'll find that they tend to be a lot more aggressive in India than abroad. Partly the reason is the kind of quality of attack, or the kind of wickets that seem to help the attack, that they have in India.

I agree with Sanjay that a lot of times, maybe, captains wouldn't have survived a 0-8 beating in other situations, but in my opinion, Dhoni has every right to survive it because he is Dhoni. And I say that because of the success he's had in the three years leading into the last year. He's had a disappointing last year but he's won India a World Cup, we've been the No. 1 [Test] side in the world under Dhoni, and we need to give Dhoni an opportunity to show us that he's learnt from the last year. If you put pressure on him so early in the piece, or if you try to change someone like Dhoni now, I don't think you'll get to see what he's learnt from the last year.

What I'm hoping in the course of the next eight Test matches is to see Dhoni, or see someone, who's actually learnt some lessons from the defeats, learnt more about himself, more about his players and more about the team, and is looking now to the next overseas tours and looking forward to the series ahead and trying to have a better performance when India tours the next time.

SM:: Yes, Rahul, but the problem here is, we won't know whether Dhoni has improved as an overseas captain by playing in the home series.

You know, I'm a huge fan of Dhoni. I've always been a big supporter of Dhoni. I keep saying this - once he's gone as captain, that's when Indian cricket will start missing him. Because he's been there for such a long time, familiarity breeds contempt… [and] also a certain amount of indifference towards the influence he has on the team.

My problem with Dhoni has been his vision for Indian cricket, or the kind of selections that he's made. Home series, again I expect Dhoni to be a good captain because of the obvious advantage that he has with the bowling attack, pitch conditions and everything. But is he now prepared to become a better overseas captain for the next overseas tours? If that was the goal for him, to prove to all his critics that he can be a good overseas captain, which [Sourav] Ganguly was during his time, then there could have been some measures that could have been taken, which haven't been.

HB: It's interesting what Rahul said just now because I remember talking to Sourav Ganguly some time back and he had a similar view to what Rahul did. He said you have to give captains the opportunity to make mistakes and then give them the time to learn from it. If you change your captains too quickly, they then make the mistakes but you don't give them the time to learn from it.

That might have been true for a couple of captains in the past but, Rahul, Dhoni's had the job for a long time. And as Sanjay says, can he be a better captain overseas? Is being a better captain overseas the function of the team he will get when he goes to South Africa in 2013? Because the fact that he's captain now means, ideally, he should be the captain in end 2013, otherwise you would have needed another captain to feel his way around.


MS Dhoni applies sun cream  during the practice session, World T20 2012, Colombo, September 27, 2012
Still the best man to lead India in Tests? © Associated Press
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RD: Yes, I mean you'd hope that if he is the captain in South Africa then India have probably done well in these two series, against England and Australia. In some ways Dhoni, even though he's got to keep a short-term view in terms of these two Test series - and by no stretch of imagination can he afford to take England and Australia lightly, even though we're playing at home - he's got to have an eye some of the challenges he faces in his career to be seen as a good overseas captain as well.

That will be a function of the team that he gets but he's got to try and have an influence on the kind of team that he gets, and that's a process that he's got to start now. It's a process of, I think, communication and negotiation with selectors, coaches, working on some of the skill sets of, especially, some of the bowlers and the young batsmen coming through on what is required in a year's time. So while he has a micro view over what needs to be done in these series, he needs to discuss with the selectors about the kind of players he wants in South Africa and entrust them with the job of actually finding those players in domestic cricket.

HB: Rahul used two very good words back to back - communicate with selectors and then negotiate with them too.

SM: [Dhoni] is in a bit of a fix, actually. If he wants to be remembered as one of the greatest Indian captains, his overseas performances have to improve after what happened recently. But to be the overseas captain in November 2013, he's got to win at home and that's where he can't take the risks that are attached with trying new players.

I firmly believe that after the kind of opening batting combination that India had in England and Australia, to go back with Gambhir and Sehwag to South Africa would be a huge gamble. So a guy with a longer-term vision would have maybe somebody else to open in South Africa, but that also means a bit of risk taken in the home series.

I can clearly see Dhoni is under pressure to deliver because, until now, he seemed to be a captain who didn't worry about the pitches that he got at home. But now I'm getting to hear that he's very aware, and he's talking about the pitches helping his spinners and all that, which a Dhoni who was not under pressure as a captain never did.

HB: Rahul, you've seen Dhoni as a captain in India and as a captain overseas. Do you see him being different as a captain in India? As a person himself, his confidence level, his swagger? Or is he the same phlegmatic person that you don't really know what's going on inside?

RD: He is the same phlegmatic person. I think his handling of the 0-8 defeat, from a personal level, his own level, was pretty good. We never ever felt he was putting himself under any undue pressure in those couple of tours. So I don't think I've seen him be different either at home or away.

I think on the field you can obviously see the difference, because that is where he's got to manage that bowling attack. And when you don't have the necessary skills with the bowling attack, you can start to look a bit defensive and a bit flustered, and start looking around for answers. So on the field maybe he is slightly different, but that is more a function of the resources he has at hand. Otherwise he's been pretty similar and that's been one of his strengths - his ability to stay pretty balanced, to be able to manage and stay in a cocoon and not get too affected by what's happening around him.

That's a good thing in a lot of ways, but sometimes I think there are a lot of good suggestions outside of the cocoon and there's a lot you can learn and pick up outside of this cocoon as well, that maybe sometimes he misses out on. And maybe now's the time for him to, sort of, get out of that a little bit and see what he can pick up from outside of this cocoon that he sometimes puts himself in, and which has been the reason for him having this success over three to four years.

HB: It's a very interesting point you make because that's true of leaders everywhere, that you are paid to take the call, you are given the responsibility to take the decision, but you listen to everybody because you never know where the next big idea is coming from.

But, Sanjay, I get the feeling - and that could be because he's played in those kinds of teams - that he's happiest with his slow bowlers. You saw that with Chennai Super Kings, you see that with India in the way he handles his spinners. I remember the last time England came here, he gave Yuvraj the third over of the innings. He's happy to experiment with it here. Is it because that's his comfort level, playing with the slower bowlers? Or is it because that is the strength and he's happier when that strength comes in?

SM: I think more the latter, because he's just looking at bowlers that will put the opposition under pressure and he finds that's more the spinners that do it. He's quite happy to use Zaheer Khan very often because Zaheer is able to do that. Give him three world-class seamers and he'll start using the seamers very often. So, yes.

And also, I think, any Indian captain, the way we are bred, right from junior-level cricket to international cricket, there's more spinner handling than handling seam bowlers.

HB: Rahul, you were captain on two overseas tours that India did well in - England and West Indies, 2006-07, in that area. Were you a little luckier in the West Indies? I thought Munaf Patel had started to bowl well, you had RP Singh and Zaheer bowl very well. Did you have a better bowling attack, from that point of view, than the team you were part of in England and Australia?

RD: I think I had a more settled bowling attack. I remember in England, especially, we didn't change the playing XI for all three Test matches. So in that sense, yes, having three settled fast bowlers, and fast bowlers who can stay fit through the tour, is critical. What we've had in the last couple of years, or year and a half, is bowlers who start the series and are not able to complete the series, or are not bowling anywhere near as well as they were bowling at the start of a series. And that's the problem. In a long, three-match or four-match series, Indian fast bowlers tend to start well but by the time you reach the third or fourth Test match, they are struggling or struggling to get wickets. That can put a lot of pressure on the captain.

I was lucky in that sense that we were able to keep the bowlers fit through the series and we didn't have to make too many changes.

HB: One of things that people talk about, Sanjay, is the TINA effect - there is no alternative. It's very easy to say who should not be there. The moment you say someone should not be there or somebody should be moved, then you are almost bound to answer the supplementary question: therefore, who [instead]?

Who do you think is the captain in waiting at the moment? If we are to go with the hawks, if we are to say, 0-8 - captains have been sacked for that before, who is the alternative? If you look at the senior players, Sehwag and Gambhir, they are themselves a little unsettled at this stage. Maybe they can do with just batting? [Virat] Kohli has played just seven to ten Test matches. So where was the alternative?

SM: I think Dhoni knew that very well.

HB: Do you think he's that kind of person, do you think he'll analyse everything… ?

SM: No, right at the end of that series in Australia, when the pressure was building up about his captaincy, which was a little unfair… I've said that because the batting kept failing repeatedly and the bowling attack wasn't great, you had to lose every Test match. He said he'd be happy to move away if you've got a better alternative. What happened is that Sehwag himself struggled with the bat - he was perhaps the contender to take the Test captaincy for a while from him. Gambhir also didn't enhance his reputation. So Dhoni was fortunate.

And I've absolutely got no issues with Dhoni being the Test captain for a while because there's no alternative. And to give Virat Kohli the Test captaincy is far too early.

HB: Will you give him the T20 [captaincy] just now?

SM: Maybe one format, if you feel that Dhoni has captained a lot. If you look at the number of matches he's played as captain, it's 203 matches out of the 318 that he's played, so that's a lot of matches as captain. Even more than Sourav Ganguly, who captained 196 out of 424. So he's also played mostly as captain and less as a player. Maybe a few years you should allow Dhoni to be a player in at least one of the formats. Let's get to see Dhoni the player once more. When you look at Dhoni, and I've said this in post-match presentations as well, we sometimes are very unfair to him in that we don't look at his other skills as much as his captaincy skills.

HB: Do you think Dhoni the player has got diluted a little bit? Is that what you were suggesting just now, the player diluted because of the captaincy?

SM: No. I think his Test batting has disappointed me, but I don't know why that is because I find his technique good enough to counter Test match challenges. He's got a rare strength that not too many of the Indian batsmen have, that he doesn't a problem with fast bowling or short balls. If he focuses more as a batsman, there is room for improvement as a Test batsman. I think he's done wonderfully well as a limited-overs batsman.

HB: Rahul, when you became captain it was very clear who the next captain after Ganguly was going to be. It wasn't a difficult selection. Once you knew that Sourav had come to the end, it was known to everybody that you would be the next captain. Is there a next captain in your mind - even if you don't want to put a time frame to it?

RD: Unfortunately for the selectors or for their planning, Viru and Gambhir, who probably were the obvious candidates to, sort of, be in a leadership role along with Dhoni, have their own issues, of form, of fitness. I think Viru and Gautam have both missed a lot of Test matches through injury over the last year, year and a half, which doesn't help.

Virat's come in and done really well, but like Sanjay said, we'd all like to see him have another year like the one he's had. If he has another 12 months like the past 12 months he's had, then I think he's going to start pushing himself very close to, sort of, captaincy and starting to go away from the pack. So at the moment I think the selectors themselves would have liked personally, maybe Sehwag or Gambhir to have been a lot more consistent, not only in their performances but also consistency in their ability to stay fit and playing consistently all the time, which is very important.

HB: Fair call. You saw Azhar, then Sachin, then Azhar, then Sachin, then Sourav, Dhoni, and briefly you had it there as well, and you've been observant. Can you, sort of, watch and tell that somebody is not enjoying captaincy? That maybe, like batsmen look jaded, a leader can look jaded, or maybe that the leader's heart is not in it anymore? Or do you actually need to be in a inner circle to realise that?

RD: It's a little difficult to tell from a distance. It's not an easy job captaining your country, especially when you are losing games. Dhoni had three great years where we didn't lose a lot of games and we had a lot of success. So when you have that success it is easy to have that enthusiasm and that momentum. But when you have the kind of year that he's had, it's but natural for him to feel a little jaded and a little despondent with how things are happening. But like I said earlier, you haven't really noticed any change in his personality from the time he's been doing well or the time now.

 
 
"I think, knowing someone like him, he would want to get more involved and have a say in where his own career and his own reputation is headed." Dravid on Fletcher
 

But, like Sanjay said, you have to consider the fact that he is playing a lot of cricket and that is going to have an impact on you in time, especially if you are captaining in all three formats of the game. And I agree with Sanjay there that if you're going to keep playing so much cricket, people have to look at it. From his own personal point of view, you also want the best of Dhoni as a player. He has a lot to contribute as a batsman, as a wicketkeeper. I don't think we want to lose that, and if that means at some stage - maybe the time's not right now but in the near future - we have to relieve him of the responsibility from one format of the game to get the best out of him as a player, then I think the selectors have to take that call.

SM: There's one important thing as well, Rahul, isn't there? It's okay to be slightly detached and not get affected by the results and things like that because it does help being an India captain and being insulated in a cocoon, and that has been his great strength. But the defeats also have to still hurt you.

RD: I'm sure it must hurt him. But you're right, in the sense that now he's got to show in terms of actions and in terms of some of the decisions he takes that this has hurt him and he is thinking of the future, he is thinking about what's going to happen ahead. I think he is the right man to lead India and the right man to take those decisions. I think he is in a position to be able to take those decisions, because, like we discussed earlier, there isn't a lot of pressure on him from underneath from any particular player or set of players for his job.

HB: It's interesting that while all these defeats were happening, India beat England 5-0 in the one-dayers at home, beat West Indies, beat New Zealand, so there's almost a skew there. But it's also interesting that we haven't even talked about the coach. Is that an indicator, Sanjay, that in this cricket team, it is the captain who's taking the decisions and the coach is not as important a person? Or is that how it should be in the first place?

SM: My view on the Indian coach has been the same. When they're offered a contract, I don't think it's written anywhere that you'll be one of the main selectors, or you'll be one of the guys scouting for talent in the country, or you'll be one of the two or three important voices in taking the important decisions in Indian cricket, especially the Indian cricket team. So he comes with very limited powers. And that's why I don't think he should be held accountable for what happens in Indian cricket because he has very limited influence.

I am indifferent to Duncan Fletcher. It's because of two things. One is the scope that an Indian coach has in the Indian cricket system - it's very limited. And also, Fletcher by nature is not somebody like Greg Chappell, who, in spite of the scope, will try and make things happen, will try, for reasons good or bad, but won't be afraid to rock the boat.

For me, he is a very insignificant character in this Indian cricket team. The captain, and a few other major players, and bowlers, are far more important people in this team.

HB: Rahul, you know him well. Is he as understated as he is allowing himself to look, and is his power, sort of, stated within the four walls of a room rather than visibly to the public?

RD: I think Duncan has a lot to offer. He's got a lot of strengths as a coach and he connects well with a lot of the players and works quite well with them. But, like Sanjay said, I guess, in some ways, the scope or power that he has to make decisions or to make selections has been a little limited.

It wasn't always the case. I remember John Wright or Greg Chappell consistently attending selection committee meetings, watching domestic matches. I think over the last three-four years we've seen that coaches have taken a slightly more detached role to our selections. I don't think Gary [Kirsten] watched a lot of domestic cricket. Duncan has not really done that as well. Now, whether that's something that the board has told him not to do… because this is the time when a lot of young players are going to need to be selected and decisions are going to be made about young players. Ideally you would have liked somebody like Duncan to come and maybe watch some of the early pre-season games to have a better opinion of who's the better middle-order batsman, in his opinion.

The thing is, he has a lot of knowledge, he's seen a lot of players, that's why I say that. Who's a better middle-order player between Manoj Tiwary and an Ajinkya Rahane or a Shikhar Dhawan or Murali Vijay? At least to have an opinion, an informed opinion by actually coming and watching some games. Because I think he has a lot to offer in that area, he's seen so much cricket. But the fact that he didn't come and didn't attend the selection-committee meeting tells you that maybe that's not in his scope of work, he doesn't have those powers…

HB: There's two opinions, aren't there, about coaches being selectors? One is that the coaches observe players very closely, they understand their mental frailties, their cricketing strengths, and know whether or not the person is the right person or not. The other point of view that's often been stated is that a player goes to a coach with a problem, and if the coach then uses the awareness of that problem to drop him from the side, players will stop going to him with a problem. So should the coach be a selector? Or should the coach be an advisor and travel with the team?

RD: I think a coach should be more involved in the selection process. I like the coach to be more involved in the selection process simply because the coach should have the ability to differentiate between that and have the maturity to pick people. Some of these people do have the maturity to be able to understand that when players come to them with a problem, they don't necessarily use that as a way to drop someone. But also the coach sees players from such quarters, he understands players. So I think he must have a say.

SM: And also, Rahul, his job is at stake on the results. Now suddenly we are talking about Fletcher, whether he'll survive this defeat or bad run that Indian cricket has had. Just imagine his fate. If he's got absolutely no influence on the selection of players, how can he be held accountable for the results?

RD: You want to give people powers and you want to hold them accountable, especially when you have senior, knowledgeable people like Duncan. So that's important. None of us really knows whether he didn't want to come [to selection meetings] or what was the scenario, but I think his reputation is on the line as well. I think, knowing someone like him, he would want to get more involved and have a say in where his own career and his own reputation is headed.

HB: A couple of things before we finish on the coach. One of the reasons people ask questions about Fletcher is that nobody knows him at all. I've been around Indian cricket for a while; I have never once spoken to him. We've just sort of nodded heads. I don't know him at all. Nobody knows Duncan Fletcher at all. So he comes through as this somewhat mystical, phlegmatic character who's there behind the shades but no one really knows what his contribution is.

And that is the reason why a lot of people want to know: What kind of coach is Duncan Fletcher? Can he be held accountable? Is he doing his job in making players play to the best of their ability, which is what a coach should be doing?

RD: Yeah, firstly his job is not really to get to know the media or former players. I think his job is to get results from the team and the questions that are being raised today are because we haven't had some of those results. In the end, finally, he is going to be judged by that. Not by what he's perceived as. What I've learnt in cricket and being around the scene a lot is that perception about people and players and coaches is sometimes very different from who they actually are and what the reality is, sometimes. It's very difficult to get that right sometimes from a distance. Having said that, he's going to be judged by his results and the results haven't been great in the last one year. That's why these questions are being raised.

I think I have seen a little bit of… definitely after the loss he has put a lot of emphasis on fitness and certain disciplines of the players, and knowing and talking to maybe some of them, and the basics in skill levels of some players. So, hopefully we'll see some of that in these Test series and going forward - an improved level of fitness and some more discipline in the way they play the game.

SM: I'll add one more line. If Duncan Fletcher is going to be judged on the results produced by the Indian team, I think it's going to be a little unfair. That's why I was also reluctant to shower too much praise on Gary Kirsten, because of the kind of powers that they come with in this Indian cricket set-up. If they have defined powers and scope of work, then you could judge them by the results in either way. So with an Indian coach, we can always be a little unfair to them when we judge them by pure results, because they have such limited scope of work.


Duncan Fletcher during India's training session, Old Trafford, August 30, 2011
How much of the blame for 0-8 should Fletcher bear? © Getty Images
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HB: Last one on coaches. Rahul, very different style, Gary and Duncan? Because one's been the mentor for the other. In a sense, Gary admits the role Duncan has played in his evolution as a coach.

RD: I think both of them have their own strengths. Gary was a terrific coach, a really good man-manager, very hard-working person who led with example in a lot of ways in the way he worked. Someone who, I think, became a friend of a lot of the players. Duncan, obviously because of an age difference, maybe doesn't have that personal connect with some of the players, or the level of conversations that he can have with some of the guys are maybe a little different to what Gary could have had because he played with some of them.

But I think Duncan has a lot to offer in terms of a coach, in terms of the tactics, his knowledge of the game - he works well in that area, he works quite closely with a lot of players. I think his relationship with the players and captain has been pretty good, from what I've seen and what I've noticed from a distance for the last six-eight months, because I've not been in it. I think the relationship is good within the team. Sometimes it might not necessarily come across like that outside, because of the things we said - he doesn't necessarily take the trouble to talk about a lot of these things outside of the team environment.

HB: Sanjay, since Rahul mentioned tactics, I'll end with you on this issue - on the coach and captain being a good tactical combination. What has been your experience? We don't know how much the tactical inputs of the coach are, but from a hundred yards away, have India been tactically strong?

SM: Rahul would be a better person to answer that because he's also been in the same dressing room. But from what I see from a distance, I see other strengths with Dhoni as a captain. I don't think tactics are his greatest strength. I think the greatest contribution he's made to Indian cricket is that he's brought calmness to Indian cricket. Because very often in the past, when India was under pressure, captains would wilt, the team would panic. It got more and more assured and calm under Dhoni. That's his greatest legacy.

As far as tactics are concerned, sometimes he has some strange ideas. For example, in that Test against New Zealand, in Bangalore, the most successful bowler, R Ashwin, was [Dhoni's] last preferred option in the second innings. Things of that kind, which you can't understand. But, as I said, he's got a lot more other strengths. And the kind of record he's got, he's got us three world titles. That's got to count for something. But as a tactician, not right up there.

RD: Dhoni as a tactician, he's learning all the time. I guess he's improving and no one's perfect with it. He looks a better captain in India, like we said at the top of the programme, with the quality of spin he has. I think he's a good captain of spin and he's a good tactical captain in India. I know he sometimes does a few strange things that when they come off they look really good but when they don't, you can sort of scratch your head and wonder why he's done that.

I think he's got to keep improving and that's where Duncan can help him. Duncan's got to be able to help him and say, "Look, this is what I think and maybe we should try this a little bit." I do agree that in that Test match, it did surprise me a little bit as well with Ashwin, who's India's leading bowler, not having bowled upfront. But sometimes you never know with these things whether it's a case of injury or someone's not feeling well. So, that could be one of the reasons. But yeah, Dhoni's tactical nous is also going to be tested, maybe not so much in this series or the next couple of series but definitely going forward.

HB: I must confess we got a lot out of this programme than I wondered when we started off. Just a quick one on the opposition that India face. How do you see this England side compared to the other England sides that have come to India? Are they strong enough? I think the return of [Kevin] Pietersen is such a big factor.

RD: On paper, definitely they look a strong side. When they came here I thought they would be competitive, especially with their bowling, but now with injuries to [Steven] Finn and [Stuart] Broad, I think they'll definitely be weakened. And with the news of Graeme Swann having gone back to England… they say he's going to come for the first Test, but that can't be easy and it's not great for your preparation of your leading bowler if he's going to make two long flights just before the first Test.

I think the key will be if the England bowling attack can restrict the Indian batsmen to under 300 consistently. I don't see, on our wickets, the English batsmen being able to pile up huge scores. If the tracks start turning and bouncing, the best England can hope for is to make this a low-scoring Test series. And from that point of view, they've got to have the ability to get India out twice, for under 300 runs in both innings. For that, they need the bowlers to do that. Finn and Broad, especially, for me, bowlers who hit the deck, who can make use of the vagaries of the nature of the wicket, would have been more dangerous than someone like a [James] Anderson, who relies on swing, or an [Graham] Onions, who relies on length, to get wickets.

SM: [England's] batting is a bit suspect. There's only one thing. The thing is, when India got beaten by England, when Dravid got three hundreds in the [2011] Test series… yes, the pitches helped the seamers, but it was a quality bowling attack that England had. Do India have a quality bowling attack? That's where England's chance is to escape from the net on a few occasions.

HB: Okay, we'll wait and see. Thank you very much to Sanjay Manjrekar, thank you very much to Rahul Dravid. Both of them will be on air during the Test series between India and England, so we can enjoy their company all over again.

Numbers Game Question: Since 1990, there have been 19 instances of overseas batsmen scoring more than 300 runs in a Test series in India. How many of those are from England, and who are the batsmen?

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Posted by S.N.Singh on (November 15, 2012, 3:14 GMT)

RESUBMIT: WHAT I HAVE SEEN HERE IS THAT THE PRESS IS PUTTING PRESSURE ON DHONI. DRAVID SHOULD AND MUST KNOW THAT INDIA PROBLEM IS THE BOWLING. INDIA DID NOT GET ANY USE OF SHARMA, SRESANTH AND ZAHEER. WE HAVE SPINNERS. THIS IS WHAT WE HAVE TO GO WITH. SPINNERS, ASHWIN,HARBHAJAN AND OJHA WITH YUVRAJ AS A CHANGE. I WAS AND AM ASKING FOR NUMBERS OF YEARS FOR INDIA SHOULD GO WITH WHAT IS TRADITIONALY. INDIA PLAYED UNDER WADEKAR IN THE WEST INDIES WITH SPINNERS AGAINST THE STRONGEST TEAM AT THAT TIME. GAVASKAR WAS THE MAN OF THAT SERIES. DRAVID MUST NOT SINGLE OUT OUR SENIOR PLAYERS BECAUSE HE RETIRED. GAMBHIR AND SEHWAG IS STILL YOUNG COMPARE TO PLAYERS FROM AUSTRALIA AND STH.AFRICA. LET THE YOUNG PLAYERS FIGHT FOR THEIR PLACE. I AM SORRY RAINA IS NOT IN THE SIDE. BUT YOU CAN ONLY SELECT AN AMOUNT. MANJREKAR I THINK UNDERSTAND THE SITUATION. LET US DO NOT PLAY POLITICS ? THE PRESS COULD BE DANGEROUS WITH INDIA CRICKET ? S.N.AINGH USA

Posted by lovepork on (November 15, 2012, 2:43 GMT)

Dhoni: step out or get out, we are getting tired of you, you are a confused, emotionless, passive man! India does not need you anymore. It is time for young turn and aggressive Kohli to take over, so thank you very much, please retire with Sachin!

Posted by   on (November 15, 2012, 1:02 GMT)

Dont compare Sehwag with MSD with just the one match he has captained. If you want, give Sehwag more opportunity to lead the team and then comment if he doesnt perform...!!!

Posted by KarthikKrishnan on (November 14, 2012, 21:28 GMT)

I really liked the Quiz posted in the bottom and of course the discussion above. Thanks to cricinfo to feed my mind with some puzzles.

Player Runs HS Season ML Hayden (Aus) 549 203 2000/01 A Flower (Zim) 540 232* 2000/01 JC Adams (WI) 520 174* 1994/95 Younis Khan (Pak) 508 267 2004/05 HM Amla (SA) 490 253* 2009/10 Misbah-ul-Haq (Pak) 464 161* 2007/08 DR Martyn (Aus) 444 114 2004/05 DM Bravo (WI) 404 166 2011/12 Inzamam-ul-Haq (Pak) 401 184 2004/05 MJ Clarke (Aus) 400 151 2004/05 MEK Hussey (Aus) 394 146 2008/09 DPMD Jayawardene (SL) 373 275 2009/10 BB McCullum (NZ) 370 225 2010/11 SM Katich (Aus) 349 102 2008/09 ND McKenzie (SA) 341 155* 2007/08 G Kirsten (SA) 322 133 1996/97 GA Hick (Eng) 315 178 1992/93 HM Amla (SA) 307 159 2007/08

Courtesy - Stats guru

Posted by Nutcutlet on (November 14, 2012, 18:20 GMT)

@sweetspot: your 'one simple fact' is, in fact, an opinion! It is, however, an opinion that many who are not esp perceptive (my opinion!) would find themselves in agreement with. And as you obviously struggle to lift your eyes above street level you cannot see in what ways many people regard Test cricket as the highest form of cricket (it's just their opinion, of course). So here it comes: not blah blah (didn't anyone ever teach you to constuct an argument?); for me and millions like me, it is deeply satisfying on several levels.The levels of skill found in TC demand a tighter batt technique over long, sustained periods (ask S Gavaskar - he knows about sustained concentration!); bowlers too need to be multidimensional, able to sustain accuracy in line & length over a possible 20 - 25 overs per day, possibly for two + days! TC makes enormous demands on the capt & the fielders must be top drawer or their mistakes become glaring. India isn't good at TC, but that doesn't make TC inferior!

Posted by swagatsawant on (November 14, 2012, 17:30 GMT)

:P

The Selection Panel Of Australia Right Now, Seems One Of The Better Models. It Would Be Advisable For India As Well To Follow It. The Only Thing Is- There Might Be 7 Members (5 From Each Zone And Captain And Coach) But Still That Might Be Worth A Try...

Posted by Cric_Tic on (November 14, 2012, 16:21 GMT)

the defeat 0-8 was only due to batsmen failing and a poor bowling. Cant blame the captain. Dhono with all the experience must have learnt few lessons too. BCCI has to think of some former indian players as the coach.. Gavaskar, Kapil, Kumble can anyday fit into the slot of a coach. with more players from Tier 2 & 3 towns, the foreign players will only find it more difficult. If Dravid, having seen Dhoni so closely has no doubt on Dhoni's captaincy, nobody should have..!

Posted by shivas135 on (November 14, 2012, 14:06 GMT)

I certainly would not agree with all the criticism on MSD. To me he is the best captain India has ever got. When the entire is team is not performing well how only the captain alone is being blamed. Each player in the team has to deliver for a team's victory. I also agree as a player MSD did not contribute much in the past 8 tests, but it doesn't mean he is the only man who is responsible for the loss. Even in WCT20, India showed great performance except the match against Australia. As Dhoni said 'We cannot control other team's performance'. No one expected SA team would lose all their games in super8. As everyone discussing now, BCCI is sole responsible for the team's poor performance in overseas as they are not giving opportunity for the players to practice in green pitches. Though I am not expecting 4-0 defeat for England in this series, but I believe India will show its dominance in home.

Posted by Al_Bundy1 on (November 14, 2012, 12:59 GMT)

How can Dhoni step out of his cocoon when he has to play with non-performers like Sachin and Sehwag, and half fit bowlers like Zaheer and Ishant? First get rid of our non-performing batsmen and find a couple of decent bowlers.

Posted by   on (November 14, 2012, 12:26 GMT)

@sanjay :::u can support MSD u cannt judge a captain from one test match VIRU has not given a lot of chances to lead

Posted by krishroxx on (November 14, 2012, 10:44 GMT)

when ganguly had kumble who was not a big turner but relied on bounce and variation it didnt matter if you are playing at home or away,and the guys like zak and rp were fit and trying to make a mark ...now they are badly out of shape and guys like ishant and umesh even sreesanth are fighting to regain fitness.. what can you expect dhoni and the batsmen to do... score 500 in every innings overseas against a fit and superior bowling attacks on green tops???? thats shear rubbish.. india has been the ultimate challenges for these teams and should stay like that!! you dont want "Square Turners" but pitches must have turn and bounce.. as they always have had...........

Posted by dork29 on (November 14, 2012, 8:30 GMT)

There are several points which these armchair critics talk about, which confuse me all the time. And surprisingly most of these 'critics' are guys who have played for India at some tiime or the other!! Consider this - how can India's WT20 performance be termed bad, when they won all their matches except against Australia? Second, why should we prepare sporting pitches for tests? we can have sporting greentops for our Ranji Trophies and Duleep trophies but not for test cricket. Spin is our strength and we should capitalise on it to win. why should we prepare greentops just because England and Australia have fast bowlers? Do they prepare spin friendly tracks when we visit them? Why are we shy to play to our strengths? Lastly, when you have your lead fast bowler limping from the second over onwards, you cannot afford to be aggressive. Dhoni's moves have confounded at times - but more ofthen than not he has succeeded. Like in the inaugural T20 WC. No point analysing, MSD is the best now.

Posted by   on (November 14, 2012, 7:57 GMT)

Who are these trio of invalids to comment on World Cup winning captain MS Dhoni.

Posted by alwaysindia on (November 14, 2012, 7:49 GMT)

@ joiedevivre what can we learn from sa and eng , not winning a wc till date. regarding quality of pitches , do aus ,sa,eng prepare turners so that they could play well in subcontinent

Posted by sweetspot on (November 14, 2012, 6:45 GMT)

It amazes me time and again, how the so called "experts" are missing out on observing one simple fact - Indians are no longer really interested in Test cricket. It may be the "highest" form of cricket etc. in some people's views, but it is the highest in what? Not money, not attendance, not viewership, not results, not fun. Don't give me this blah blah about skill and application etc. Sport is for the spectators, and Indian spectators too don't care about Test cricket that much anymore. How hard can it be to see reality? Test cricket can provide employment to plodders who will never make it in ODIs and T20s or franchise cricket, but it really is time up for the old format that hasn't done anything to popularize the game in a hundred odd years.

Posted by sanjaycrickfan on (November 14, 2012, 4:59 GMT)

Stopped reading at "India didnt play well in WT20". India won all games barring the one against Australia. That was a good performance and you cant dismiss that just because of the result. This is the kind of unfair criticism in Indian media that I cant stand which thrives on negativity.

Posted by   on (November 14, 2012, 4:42 GMT)

Answer to Numbers game question: 1 player from England - G. Hick

Posted by JoieDeVivre on (November 14, 2012, 3:25 GMT)

Brilliant, absolutely brillant. Doesn't this say hell of lot about Indian Cricket, I guess most of knew about some of the stuff happening but what concerns me is the fact that Coach is more of a rubber stamp. There is so much we can learn from Aussies, SAF and from England as to how players from domestic games are indentified and groomed for the highest level and who better than the coach in tandem with selectors. Issue however is with the way BCCI wants to run the game and while I don't see that changng in the next few years what gives hope is when you have people like Kumble, Dravid, Ganguly, Gavaskar etc. But will BCCI use them to improve the quality of pitches, games etc. Well, we all can only hope and pray.

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