March 11, 2012

Jayawardene succeeds where Dhoni fails

A lot of it has to do with the cultures and make-up of the Sri Lankan and Indian teams

The value of good captaincy may be debatable but there can be no disputing that strong leadership improves a cricket team's performance. Sri Lanka's Mahela Jayawardene is a good example.

His vibrant leadership during the CB Series inspired and took his team to the brink of a tournament victory. From the moment Jayawardene elevated himself to the top of the Sri Lankan order, his team became a threat. He also led the way with some brilliant fielding, but just as important as his individual contributions, it was his faith in his players and the respect he has earned that have elevated the level of Sri Lanka's play.

Good captaincy can be seen in the moves a skipper makes on the field but strong leadership is harder to quantify. It mostly involves work done behind closed doors but the rewards are reaped on the field.

Jayawardene showed enormous faith in Lasith Malinga following a horror night in Hobart. And his lead bowler continued to contribute despite a niggling injury. The rapport between the two was obvious when Jayawardene hugged Malinga after his outstanding finishing effort in the must-win match against Australia at the MCG.

In the end Sri Lanka fell just short of winning the trophy, but without Jayawardene's strong leadership and shrewd captaincy, it's doubtful they would have even reached the finals.

Compare Sri Lanka's playing-above-themselves competitiveness with India's under-performance throughout the Australian tour. There's no doubt India had a more talented line-up than Sri Lanka, but other than Virat Kohli's electrifying night at Bellerive, the Indian team was unable to live up to its reputation.

MS Dhoni is a good captain, better in the short forms of the game than Test cricket but a solid skipper nonetheless. However, he has been unable to inspire his team on two lacklustre tours and consequently eight overseas Tests have been lost on the trot. There may have been extenuating circumstances in England, where injuries took their toll, but the Australian tour was an unmitigated disaster.

The obvious difference between Sri Lanka and India was that one played as a team and the other as individual performers. As has often been observed, a champion team will beat a team of champions.

There's no doubt Dhoni has earned the respect of his team-mates as player and captain. The fact that he's more animated in the shorter version of the game suggests he's more motivated with a younger, more energetic fielding side to lead. It could also stem from the fact that the shorter versions often dictate how the game has to be played, whereas in Tests the captain has to continually evaluate his strategy. Whatever the reason, Dhoni was unable to inspire his team in England or Australia series.

There's also the suspicion that honest appraisal is an accepted part of life in the Sri Lankan team, while the senior Indian players are untouchable and some of the younger brigade have succumbed to sloppy habits. There could be another underlying cause: the Sri Lankans are still owed some back pay, while in many cases the Indian players have become extraordinarily rich overnight via hefty IPL contracts. There has long been a theory that hungry sportsmen are the most competitive.

Whatever the reasons for the differences between the two sides, there's no doubt Sri Lanka have an egalitarian team culture, while India's is more conducive to developing bad habits. India's problem is that their culture means it will do little good changing captains or blaming all the failings on Dhoni. It's obvious the Indian problem is systemic when a high-ranking official waves away criticism of the team's dismal performance on tour by saying all will be forgotten when India experience victory at home.

Generally, cricket teams need strong guidance on and off the field. What makes Jayawardene's outstanding leadership even more meritorious is that he has achieved a lot despite constant upheaval amongst Sri Lanka's administrative ranks.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is now a cricket commentator and columnist

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Prashanth on March 14, 2012, 16:27 GMT

    What's he talking about? India had the better of SL head-to-head in the CB series - 2-1 with 1 match tied. And that tied match India should have won if the umpire had not called a ball short during India's innings.

    @Ian: I know you are looking for reasons to put India down, but do look out for genuine ones.

  • Dummy4 on March 14, 2012, 14:49 GMT

    New Zealand has a far superior culture than Australia. Thats why Australia was humiliated by New Zealand in Australia recently. Everyone agrees that Pup, Michael Clarke is really a Pup, who has no leadership skills, while New Zealand Captain is a true leader. The British consider Australian culture as very mediaval and backward, compared to their own. That reflects in Australian cricket.

  • Daison on March 14, 2012, 7:45 GMT

    As usual Ian (for that matter any Chappell) wont let go a chance to take a dig at Team India. We know Team India have problems and we will sort them out. But Chappell being such biased Australian, we are not currently taking advise from any Chappells. So hold your peace.

  • Jay on March 13, 2012, 16:23 GMT

    Ian Chappell is flip-flopping again! He exclaimed "Dhoni's among the great modern captains" soon after India's 2011 WC triumph. And now he faults Dhoni for failing to inspire his team in England & Australia. What a Switcheroo! Even more absurd is his half-baked theory of "Indian culture" being the root cause of this failure. OMG! Just last month, superstar Ricky Ponting went from being a Test hero to an ODI goat, playing against the same Dhoni-led team. And the Aussies were ambushed in the last Ashes by the Poms. As also recently by NZ. Were these failings caused by some sinister flaws in "Aussie culture"? Also the same Poms who vanquished India last summer were thrashed later in ODIs by India. Not to mention the newly crowned Test team's humiliation by Pakistan. Were these disasters caused by some karmic curse on "English culture"? Reality: Ian is in his usual state of perpetual denial - carping, flip-flopping, misrepresenting - a clueless faultfinder! His time is up. Go fishing, Ian!

  • Ashok on March 13, 2012, 12:54 GMT

    @praveen4honestremarks: Thanks for your honest remarks.Jadeja is a promising youngster. But you cannot fill a team with 3 average to below average all rounders in Ashwin, Irfan Pathen & Jadeja. This weakens the team grossly. The team needs 6 batsmen + one all rounder + 4 specialist bowlers.On Indian pitches, 2 specialist spinners are a Must such as Ashwin & Rahul Sharma + 2 specialist seamers.The all rounder has to be chosen in accordance with the pitch - spinner if it is turner or seamer if it is a fast pitch.Pakistan go with 2 spinners (Afridi & Ajmal) + 2 seamers(Gul +Junaid) +5th bowler, as per pitch.England do this as do Sri Lanka.Dhoni's bizarre XI selection is irrational. Tiwary & Rahul have each been benched for 8 games in a row & counting!. Mahela picks his team & demands 100% from them & often gets it.Dhoni's policies are not in sync with his team mates & hence the disunity.He needs to be less stubborn & take the advise of others.What Mr. Chapell says is 100% correct.

  • Jay on March 13, 2012, 12:24 GMT

    Ian's modus operandi: Divide & Rule the cricketing world! Case in point: Calling it a Jayawardene vs Dhoni issue (Read Sri Lanka vs India). It's not at all about Jaya's success vs Dhoni's failure. Nor is it about "culture." Reality: The nations broadly share the same culture. Both teams were 2011 WC finalists. Both had close contests in the CB series. And to say "Indian players have become extraordinarily rich overnight via hefty IPL contracts" as an "underlying cause" is misrepresenting facts. Truth: IPL has benefited many SL players too, incl. Jaya & Malinga. And many Aussies too. Reality: India has spread revenues & supported cricket worldwide. It's a more level playing field; more parity among teams. The Aussie juggernaut is gone. The race is wide open. It's difficult to predict a No.1 in any format. Even Ian admitted it's "a predictor's nightmare" when he picked "Australia as slight favourites" ahead of the last Ashes. He was wrong! His retirement dictum to Sachin: Dead wrong!

  • Jay on March 13, 2012, 12:14 GMT

    (Cont) What's disturbing is Ian borrowing this page(s) on "Indian culture" from his brother's book. We all know Greg Chappell failed as India's coach & had to resign. Now Greg blames "Indian culture" for failing to produce leaders. Since when did Indian culture become a leadership problem for foreign coaches? Just ask John Wright & Gary Kirsten. They entrusted Ganguly & Dhoni to build a strong team culture. But Greg disrupted it (post-Wright) with his divisive ways & confrontational style. The rise of India to the top in all 3 formats was painstakingly built by a critical mass of great players - Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman, Kumble, Sehwag, Zaheer and captains Ganguly & Dhoni. All true leaders, guided by Wright & Kirsten. But Greg failed. It's obvious the Chappells do not understand Indian culture. Do they even understand Aussie culture? Did not CA axe Greg as talent manager (Argus review)? And even ban him from the dressing-room? So much for "Chappell culture" & their blame games! (TBC)

  • Praveen on March 13, 2012, 0:28 GMT

    @ Nampally. It may look at times as Dhoni is patrial towards players and also non- inspiring, but both are far from truth. I explain this. First of all people ask for Dhoni's head if he selects Jadega, saying CSK memeber..Raina as CSK member, then why can't they about zaheer ?? He is not CSK aged 35 still Dhoni wants him, even with 80% percent fitness. Even Dhoni goes for PK. The answer for all above selection is simple, Dhoni always want team with right balance. I am not a Jadega fan here to support him, he did very bad..but looking into future as Dhoni mentioned long back that we need spinning all rounder, so he was just going with Jadega. We can't wait, for team to gel together with the combination. When failed, we say sack the player, we are creating external pressure un necessarily. I can give an example how Australian selection is; Hodge had failed in an entire series some 5 years back when playing in India, with scores always below 15 for nearly 7 games, retained for future then

  • Sarath on March 13, 2012, 0:01 GMT

    The other factor that effects the Country's Cricket most is its administrators & selectors, becos they aren't prepared to play the best talent available, instead they have always fielded 2 or 3 henchmen. Though Chandimal, Senanayake, Thirimane &few others were in brilant form just before the last WC, the selectors completely ignored them to make way for henchmen.They have even failed to drop under-performing seniors though they have done nothing in their previous tournaments against Pakistan, England & SA. The truth is Mahela & other seniors are riding on the stability brought into the side by the youngsters. Without them SL is a nothing team.

  • Kuldeep on March 12, 2012, 23:10 GMT

    Ian Chappell has ignored a couple of facts. Jayawardene is fresh leading the side. Leading all formats of the game is a demanding task, in my opinion Dhoni has done a great job. His workload is enormous; he leads India in test matches, ODIs and T20s. He leads Chennai in IPL then championship league. His workload as a captain over the last few years have far more than any other cricketer in the history of the game let alone present cricketers. The time has come BCCI to step in take workload of his shoulders, may be rest him from test matches. It is hard for him to give away the captaincy for Chennai considering the amount of money involved and his employer's demands. Now on Jayawardene it was not a long ago he gave up the Sri Lankan captaincy as the demands of being an international captain were too much for him. I think Dhoni does not get his dues, people forget that he is a human after all. He is not a robot but BCCI want him to function like one. I still back Dhoni to shine again!

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