India v England, 3rd Test, Kolkata

Dhoni's real issues are in his team

All the talk about the state of Kolkata pitch has deflected attention away from the real problems in the India team

Sidharth Monga

December 4, 2012

Comments: 59 | Text size: A | A

Virat Kohli flicks en route his half-century, India v New Zealand, 2nd Test, Bangalore, 2nd day, September 1, 2012
Virat Kohli is one of India's top order that has yet to deliver in the series © Associated Press
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MS Dhoni must be sick and tired of being asked about the state of pitches and his preferences and groundsmen. He has had a hard time explaining to people that he doesn't want slow turn and low bounce, and can't understand what is wrong with his views. You can argue his way of going about getting that - public criticism of pitches - is not ideal, but his demands are ideal: Mumbai made for far more exciting cricket than Ahmedabad.

It's the result in Mumbai - when Indian spinners were thoroughly outplayed - that has lost Dhoni's idea some fans in India, but the captain is willing to die by the spin sword. Once again, his pre-match press conference was dominated by questions surrounding the pitch.

"If you are not doing that [playing on pitches that turn and bounce], the concept of playing around the world and facing different challenges goes down the drain," Dhoni said in response. "Because if you come to India, why do you want to play on wickets that are flat on the first three or four days? Sometimes you have seen even five days are not good enough to get a result. So I feel the challenge is to play on tracks that turn and assist the spinners. It doesn't matter if we lose a few games or if you win the series…

"It's not like when Australia play in Australia or when England play in England, they win all the games. Still they stick to the kind of speciality they have got. It's the same for subcontinental teams."

Dhoni is not letting one defeat change his mindset. He had to make that clarification three to four times. And by all accounts, he is not getting the pitch he wants in Kolkata. Going by his own description of the surface, Dhoni and his team will have to play on just the track he doesn't want. He expects no help for spinners, and is relying on wear and tear.

At the same time, India could be secretly looking at all this pitch talk as some sort of respite. They are well and truly under the pump. If Indian Test cricket were strong right now, more than half the team would be playing for their places in the side. If this pitch talk had not dominated the aftermath of arguably India's worst Test defeat since they first became a competitive side, Dhoni would have had a tough time defending some of his players, and some of his captaincy moves for that matter.

Deep down, Dhoni will know the pitch is one of the lesser concerns for India right now. For even if they keep getting spitting turners every time, their spinners are no better than an even chance of winning them the match. Only one of their batsmen can claim to be not under pressure. Well, make it two: Virender Sehwag usually doesn't take much pressure either.

It must be getting a little tiresome for Dhoni to come out and defend some of the players. Asked about the openers - and barring Sehwag's century in Ahmedbabad, neither of them has done anything extraordinary for two years - Dhoni said: "We are a side that relies a lot on the openers. We don't really want to put extra pressure on them. What's important is for them to enjoy their game.

"If you see Viru Pa, he just loves to go onto the field and express himself. We just want the two individuals to back the kind of game they play. It's just a matter of time. They have done well if you see the recent few games. Both of them have scored runs; if they score together in the same innings, it will be a great plus for us."

About whether the break between the Tests had been enough for them to sort their issues out, Dhoni said they were not losing sleep over the Mumbai defeat. "Winning and losing games is part and parcel of what we do," he said. "I don't think cricketers get bothered a lot if they lose a game, and they aren't really at the top of their emotions when they win a series or a game.

"The good thing is, the bowlers had to do a lot of work in both the first two matches, so the rest between the games will really help them to come back to their best. It gives time for the batsmen to assess the situation as to what went wrong, so it was a healthy break for both the sides."

There is not much else Dhoni can say when all indications from the selectors suggest there aren't many replacements available for consistently underperforming players. What he needs from his team-mates is the kind of improvement he showed in his keeping after a horrid Test in Ahmedabad.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by   on (December 5, 2012, 12:27 GMT)

"If Indian Test cricket were strong right now, more than half the team would be playing for their places in the side"....This is what is exactly running in my mind, how many of them will be in the XI if the team was strong...at least 5

Posted by drei on (December 5, 2012, 11:04 GMT)

@Rudrajit actually I partly agree with you :) Indian Ranji experts have mastered the art of huge first innings scores in home conditions. Makes it a lot harder to separate the wheat from the chaff. But some decisions are easy... test 4 should hopefully see Yuvi dropped, and Dhoni forced to pick Rahane. Unfortunately Sehwag scored a ton this series, else they could've made two changes in the batting alone.

Posted by Harmony111 on (December 5, 2012, 11:03 GMT)

@sandy_bangalore: I doubt if you are an Ind fan. Perhaps you are someone from our neighborhood masquerading as an Ind fan. But if you are then I guess you start reading some newspapers and keep yourself aware of the sports where Ind is doing well. How about Badminton where Saina Nehwal won Olympic Bronze and is #3 as of now? How about Chess where V Anand is a 5 time WC? How about Billiards and Snooker where Geet Sethi and P Advani have won several WC? How about Wrestling where Sushil Kumar won the WC Gold in 2010? How about Archery where Deepika Kumari won Gold in WC 2012? How about Shooting where Anjali Bhagwat, Ganagn Narang and Abhinav Bibdra have won WC? The reason why Ind doesn't have Fast bowlers is the genetics and the diet, simple. As for Jadeja, yes he has not done too well in Intl cricket but that does not dilute his 3 triple 100s in domestic cricket. If scoring them is so easy why no one else in India has done that? Why u ridicule anything good and highlight the bad ones???

Posted by   on (December 5, 2012, 10:52 GMT)

MS is just a poor capt, wicketkeeper and Batsman. He wouls not get a game in either England or SA sides

Posted by Rudrajit on (December 5, 2012, 9:31 GMT)

This is unfair. All the good players are playing Ranji trophy. I'll tell you what, a Ranji XI will trounce this Indian XI anywhere in India.

Posted by drei on (December 5, 2012, 9:28 GMT)

It is amusing to see the gloating attitudes on one side and the breast beating on the other side over what is ONE defeat for India. I get the thinking that winning is everything but its normally the same people who moan on and on about flat pitches and tall scores. It would be a good idea to stop beating this guy with a stick because he wanted a fair pitch that takes the toss out of the equation. I want to see the same thing in cricket. England and NZ conditions must support swing, SA swing & bounce, Australia bounce, pace and spin and India spin, bounce & reverse swing. Bowlers do need a little bit of support if we are to see some skills remaining in cricket. look at the record from last week - Jadeja has hit three triples in his first class career, and there is nobody in India who is exactly campaigning to see him back in the test team. Couple of days back South Africa made a mockery of an international attack at their home conditions clobbering. How about a challenge? Dhoni's right!

Posted by cric_fan123 on (December 5, 2012, 9:10 GMT)

kinda sick of everyone complaining about India's loss in Mumbai. If you were awake for last 2-3 years, bouncy pitches in SA has not served SA well. So whats the big deal if India lost on a spinning pitch. Bowlers pitch gives both team a fair chance. And it is not home advantage per se. Home advantage is knowing how your pitches fare, what bounce/spin or quickness is expected. A pitch wehre even your local A level players can perform well (score and take wickets - somethig many players in many teams specialise in). Spinning/green tracks are not. I still think Ahemdabad was much better home pitch than Mumbai even if Dhoni doesn't like to believe so.

Posted by Biswajitbangalore on (December 5, 2012, 8:55 GMT)

@gitapat Yuvi needs to be replaced by someone solid like Badrinath. what you see in badrnath so solid... LOL. mast be joking.

Posted by Mitcher on (December 5, 2012, 8:47 GMT)

Seriously, the likes of Dhoni (and most Indian fans) need to stop using Australia as an example where the home team always gets tailor made conditions. Australian pitches over the past 10 years have been flatter and less conducive to movement than at probably any other time in history. In fact, the only time they appeared difficult to play on was when India batted on them recently ( notably not when the home side batted). I think it clear that was more about inept batting than anything to do with the pitch.

Posted by Samar_Singh on (December 5, 2012, 7:54 GMT)

Easy solutions : Drop Dhoni from test, Tendulkar retire , Yuvraj not a test player,Bhajji no more required, so give some other youngster some chance .. Simple as that . Regarding Dhoni's comment on pitches, let the curator do his job, he knows his job better than the rest. What if the curator say I want this this 11 player to play the game ? Not cry !!! Have we ever heard any Captain complaning so much about the pitches? My advise to Dhoni is concentrate on your game , u r among the weakest link the current Test team since couple of years . Good luck MSD.

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